Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trump's "Beautiful" Airstrike


Useful Pretexts

With Trump’s inauguration, policy in Syria had begun to take a different direction.

After having failed at regime-change, with the insurgency badly defeated, on the defensive, and fighting amongst themselves, it appeared the rebels’ sponsors had realized the futility of their efforts and started to discontinue their support.

The Trump administration also reportedly ended the CIA’s train-and-equip program. This represents a long-standing feud between the Pentagon and the CIA. The Pentagon had vehemently opposed the CIA’s rebel program under grounds that it was empowering radical extremists which would eventually turn their guns towards Americans, and if successful would turn Syria into country of chaos ruled by warring factions of jihadists, similar to Libya.

However, the sectors of power that Obama represented largely centered around the financial institutions and the intelligence apparatus, and therefore the CIA won the tug-of-war and the rebel program continued. Under Trump, the program was ended and the CIA’s control over foreign policy was diminished, while the generals and military officials were largely granted discretion to conduct overseas operations with little oversight from the chief executive. The interests therefore steering foreign policy are largely those of the weapons and defense contractors, and the profit-incentives of the military industrial base as a whole.

Given this, instead of covertly funneling aid to al-Qaeda, Trump began increasing the coalitions’ bombing of the group, and adopted a different regional strategy. This increased bombing only materialized however after al-Qaeda had been routed on the battlefield.

Nevertheless, the strategy became one of overt military occupation and a partitioning of Syrian territory.

The purpose of the US-led “anti-ISIS” campaign had up to this point been to project the image that the US was fighting the group while simultaneously allowing them to prosper and militarily bleed out Iran and Russia. In this way, the presence of ISIS was redirected into a useful pretext which legitimized an illegal military presence in Syria which otherwise would not have been possible. As well, the universally despised attitude toward ISIS could conveniently be transformed into a mandate for annexing and occupying Syrian territory. The strategy could shift from “Assad must go” to “defeating ISIS.”

Signaling this shift, the Trump administration had announced that it “accepts” the “political reality… with respect to Assad,” and that “foremost among its priorities” from here on out would be “the defeat of ISIS.”

Concurrent with this was an agreement reached between Trump and the Saudi king after their meeting in mid-March, where it was decided that the Gulf would re-open supply channels to their proxies and occupy Russia on the battlefield therefore allowing the US to concentrate on dividing northern Syria and establishing their occupation.

Within this environment, it appeared that some kind of negotiated settlement might have been able to materialize, wherein Russia would agree to the US annexation in return for some other concessions. Powerful factions within the US were vehemently opposed to this however and were determined to reverse it.

The chemical weapons incident in Khan Sheikhoun effectively accomplished that and upended all of the previous hopes for a settlement.

After the horrendous attack, killing upwards of 70 people, procedures were underway for a thorough UN investigation to determine culpability. Without having completed that process, and without any evidence presented, the Trump administration launched a barrage of cruise missiles and attacked a Syrian military installation which was being used to fight ISIS. The timing of the attack prevented the investigation from going forward.

This was a clear violation of international law and a blatant act of aggression against another state. According to the Nuremburg Tribunals, an unjustified act of aggression represents the “supreme international crime,” high above all the others. The pain and suffering of the victims was cynically exploited as a pretext for such an aggression, unsurprisingly to the high moral acclaim of Western officials and media personalities. The attack, hailed as a “beautiful” display of our weapons, which revealed the “heart” and compassion of President Trump, reportedly murdered half a dozen Syrian soldiers, as well as four children.

Who cares? It was our moral duty to punish Assad for killing children, by killing other children, albeit the justified and morally honorable way, with US bombs.

Even more egregious, the attack was almost certainly carried out by the rebels, dominated by al-Qaeda and a rabble of other sectarian extremists. Washington would have you believe that Assad, having given up all of this chemical weapons in 2013 and barely escaping a Libya-style overthrow, after now having devastated the rebels on the battlefield, securing his greatest military advantage out of the entire conflict, would on the eve of important international congregations aimed at ending the war and directly after those aggressing upon him had declared their acceptance of him staying in power, launch a militarily insignificant attack with the kind of weapons that are literally the one thing that could endanger his rule and lead to a US invasion, all to kill civilians and a relatively insignificant amount of fighters which was even lower than the amount normally killed using conventional weapons. Assad may be a brutal autocrat, but he has never displayed any signs of being insane.

The opposition, however, has everything to gain from this. Desperate, staring at defeat, a reduction in supplies, and a US administration abandoning it’s former “Assad must go” policy, the last recourse they had was for a “red-line” to be crossed which could justify a US invasion. It having been widely reported that they, in fact, have access to chemical weapons and have utilized them in the past.

Not surprisingly then, the US intelligence community largely holds the Russian explanation, that Assad’s forces bombed a rebel storage facility containing chemical weapons, to be true, and the official US line to be false, sources from the CIA stating that it was their belief that “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was likely not responsible for the lethal poison-gas incident in northern Syria.” One intelligence source said “the most likely scenario” was “a staged event by the rebels intended to force Trump to reverse a policy… that the U.S. government would no longer seek ‘regime change’ in Syria.”

War is a Racket

In the aftermath of the attack, it has become apparent that the entire motivation behind the Democratic Party’s antagonism towards Trump, along with the CIA, the neocons, and the rest of the liberal interventionists, had absolutely nothing to do with opposition towards Trump’s racism, xenophobia, attacks against civil rights, or even any connection with Putin, the accusations of course lacking any foundation in evidence. Instead, these were pretexts used to wage an all-out campaign of manipulation with a single goal in mind: pressuring him to continue carrying out the previous administrations’ strategy of overthrowing the Syrian government and maintaining a war-footing against Russia.

This is why the liberal resentment was solely focused on undermining the one aspect of his platform which was actually worth pursuing, cooperation with Russia and a d├ętente of the increasingly dangerous confrontation that had been festering between the two nuclear powers. By portraying Trump as nothing more than a spy for Putin, the liberal establishment was able to guarantee that business-as-usual against Russia would be resumed, under threat that their efforts would be directed toward undermining the Presidency if it did not.

Explaining the situation, the Wall Street Journal reported that “in Washington, probes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Congress into possible connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia have restricted the new administration’s ability to cut deals seen as conciliatory to the Kremlin in the near term without provoking an outcry from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.”

Exposing this antagonism for the opportunistic warmongering that it was, following Trump’s attack, in reality a war-crime for which Trump should be impeached and tried, all of his most forceful opponents of only a few days prior are now simply fawning in praise at their “great commander-in-chief.” The pressure has effectively been called off, though Trump will realize why that is and will remember again in the future when it is reapplied. After having found such an effective mechanism for insuring that the proper course is maintained, it will continue to be utilized.

In addition to having mitigated domestic opposition, the attack will likely remedy the problem of Trump’s approval ratings, which were below that of any comparable president. Nothing more effectively rallies a country around their leader like a war. In this sense, being a celebrity personality who’s foremost concerns are seemingly how others view him, the incident was largely orchestrated around boosting the president’s national image. Trump will now be seen as the “strong” leader who attacked the evil Assad and wasn’t afraid of Russian threats, while Obama was the “weak” president who wouldn’t do the same even without Russia protecting him. It appears that such a reckless attack was largely the result of one man’s ego.

However, it also represented the increased power and influence of the military, Trump having vowed to listen to his generals in the same way that Obama did not. When it comes to military officials, every solution resembles a nail, and are “solved” through military means such as missile strikes. As well, the power of the military industrial base to secure profit-making interests through state policy was also on display. Most notably the defense contractor Raytheon, who manufactures the missiles that were used in the attack, and thereby stands to gain when the government resupplies its arsenal. Their stock also instantly surged following the incident, adding nearly five billion dollars to its overall market value. Even more to the point are the reports which suggest that Trump still holds shares in Raytheon, and therefore will directly profit from this and from similar decisions in the future. Oil stocks as well have precipitously increased.

History, it seems, is repeating itself, with Smedley Butler’s classic “War is a Racket” coming to mind.

The attack also is related to the Trump administrations’ strong ties with Israel and the AIPAC lobby. Shortly before the chemical incident took place, Israeli jets had interfered on the side of the Islamic State and targeted Syrian army positions. Syria shot at the jets violating their airspace and forced them to retreat. The same airbase that Trump attacked was the one from which the Israeli jets were targeted, Trump giving his friend Bibi a gift in the form of retribution.

In a similar vein, the order was given during Trump’s dinner with the President of China, and comes with a message in mind. The message is that “my threats aren’t hollow,” and carry force behind them, referring to recent bellicose statements directed towards China if it refuses to “solve” the situation in North Korea. This, unsurprisingly, has only further encouraged North Korea and others to continue acquiring nuclear capabilities to deter against American aggression. This is what the North Korean’s nuclear program is all about after all, at least according to US military intelligence.

Nevertheless, Trump now has immense incentives to continue pursuing confrontation with Russia and Syria.

For what it was worth though, the actual attack represents a small-scale and largely symbolic accomplishment. It did not greatly damage Syria’s military capabilities, the airbase reportedly already being back in operation. It does, however, carry with it extraordinarily dangerous and potentially unforeseeable consequences.

A Lifeline for the Jihadists

The situation in Syria was already extremely precarious. For the first time in the modern period fighter jets of two nuclear powers were circling each other within the bounds of a single state in defense of opposing ground-forces; one false move could’ve potentially sparked a WWIII scenario. Trump’s careless actions have only further hurdled the world towards possible catastrophe, further strengthening the opinion of the world’s population that the United States is by far the greatest threat to world peace, with constantly-invoked official adversaries trailing far behind.

Directly after the attack, Russia severed the communication channels between itself and the US military. The agreed upon “deconfliction” precautions have been abandoned while the memorandum of understanding used to prevent military confrontations and air accidents has been tabled. US jets are now operating in Syria under constant threat of being targeted by the Russian air force and the Syrian army. Given this, former members of the US-led coalition have suspended their involvement and evacuated their aircraft, saying it is no longer safe to remain. Others are likely to follow. One false move could bring us to the brink of a cataclysmic confrontation. Wasn’t this decision just wonderful?

On top of all this, the maneuver has greatly damaged Russia’s credibility. The US effectively called the Russian narrative a lie and exposed Putin’s “protection” of his allies to be hollow. The Russian military has been discredited and their already strained relations with Syria and Iran have only further been maligned. Unsurprisingly the Russian’s are furious.

Importantly however, it seems likely that some kind of an agreement was reached when the US notified the Russians and warned them of the attack. Important military equipment and personnel were evacuated from the site. The question however is what concession Russia received in return for allowing Trump to save-face after his “red line” comments and what will be the Russian response. Already a Russian warship is steaming toward the Mediterranean while further steps are being taken to increase Syria’s air defenses.

The other direct consequence was the strengthening of ISIS and al-Qaeda, who unsurprisingly exploited the attack to launch their own offenses. The military installation that was hit was a main base from which attacks against ISIS were carried out. It was instrumental in keeping nearby ISIS militants at bay and protected the surrounding inhabitants from ISIS attacks. Following the incident residents say they now fear an assault, stating that “women and children have already started to leave Shayrat to go to Homs city. We’re not afraid of airstrikes. Our fear is the [ISIS] attack from the east.” For the residents, all these airstrikes amount to is “proof that the U.S. helps Daesh.” Perhaps this is what the New York Times meant when they said “It was hard not to feel some sense of emotional satisfaction, and justice done, when American cruise missiles struck an airfield in Syria on Thursday.”

All of the most reactionary forces on the ground praised and welcomed the strikes, and its main beneficiaries were ISIS and al-Qaeda. How glorious.

Furthermore, the implicit message that Trump has sent to the jihadists is that the international media and the US administration will not attempt to deliberate over evidence and demonstrate factual culpability, but instead will automatically blame Assad for any chemical weapons attacks. This effectively gives them a mechanism by which to call in US airstrikes should they ever need to improve their battlefield positions or gain the support of foreign intervention. Far from deterring dangerous weapon use, this provides an overwhelming incentive for chemical weapons to continue to be deployed, especially in terms of the Gulf monarchies should they ever need to redirect Trump towards an explicit “Assad must go” policy.

Leaked memos from Saudi Arabia say that Assad must be overthrown at all costs, because if he is not then Syria’s primary goal will be “taking revenge on the countries that stood against it, with the Kingdom… coming at the top of the list,” which represents “a high degree of danger for the Kingdom.” The Saudi rulers make clear their view that the main stumbling block in the way of achieving this is the “lack of ‘desire’ and not a lack of ‘capability’… to take firm steps” on the part of the United States, and therefore they “must seek by all means available and all possible ways to overthrow the current regime in Syria.” (emphasis added)

Isn’t it wonderful how we taught Assad a lesson?

Given all of this, the pressures leading towards war and destruction will continue, as will the strategy of occupying northern Syria while denying the Syrian government from controlling the totality of its former territories. Rebel jihadi supply lines through Turkey will continue fueling the conflict, and with it the innocent deaths, while the money and weapons from the Gulf will continue to be forthcoming in an attempt to sink Russia down into the Syrian quagmire. This course of action, based on motivations of regional dominance, will continue to be the largest stumbling block towards peace that will further prolong the already 6-year long conflict.

Obstacles to Peace

Russia still has a fresh memory of the debacle in Afghanistan during the 1980s and desperately fears another repeat in Syria, especially given the newfound influence they have now been able to establish with the buildup of their military presence around the Mediterranean. The conflict in Syria provided them the opportunity to accomplish this. It is therefore within their interests for a quick political settlement to be reached and for a termination of the conflict, along with a cleanup of the Russian-nationals fighting in the ranks of the jihadists, and to further consolidate and exploit its newfound position as an influencer in regional Middle Eastern affairs. This comes into stark conflict with their Iranian and Syrian partners who are urging Russia to continue the offensive and reclaim the totality of Syrian territory.

Because of this, Russia would likely be willing to exert the pressure necessary to force its allies to accept a settlement which includes extraordinary concessions. For this reason too, Russia will likely acquiesce to the US-backed balkanization effort in some form in order to freeze the conflict.

At the same time, the Americans and Europeans desperately want to see Russia get bogged down in another Afghanistan scenario, not the least of which because Russia was instrumental in preventing their regime-change efforts. It is for this reason that the US and the EU do not have a coherent plan to end the conflict, but do have a strategy of partitioning Syrian territory which will likely result in an all-out corporate resource-grab afterwards, allowing Western investors access to exploit the area and obtain the rebuilding contracts that will then be signed. This being paramount in their calculations, the reactionary al-Qaeda forces on the ground again become a useful asset rather than an enemy to be destroyed, while the ISIS pretext justifies the annexations.

Following the completion of partition, the strategy will shift directly back toward regime-change, only with newly acquired territories and levers of pressure from which to exert such demands. The eventual goal is a complete eviction of Russia from the Mediterranean and from its ability to frustrate Western ambitions for regional hegemony.

Fueling this is the imbedded and institutional nature of an American policy of regime change toward all non-compliant states, euphemistically referred to as the “axis of evil.” These policies are not at all related to the changing personalities which happen to occupy the White House from time to time. This is because government policy is representative of the very narrow class interests of those who dominate the socio-economic hierarchy. That is, the dominant plutocracy made up of the individuals and interests who own the private economy and enjoy control over vast consolidations of wealth and resources. It is from this dominant business-class that the top level positions within the executive are filled, and from these interests that policy is crafted and legislated. This has been shown in prominent political science studies which explain “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” Or, in other words, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” while decision-making is confined almost exclusively to the top 1%.

This is why prominent political analysts have concluded since the 1950s that “at every level of the administration of the American state, domestically and internationally, business serves as the fount of critical assumptions or goals and strategically placed personnel.” Policy therefore stemming from “the most powerful class interests” which inform the “nature and objectives of American power at home and abroad.” It is the “ideology and the interest and material power of the physical resources of the ruling class of American capitalism” which determine courses of action, “the latter [the material power of their physical resources] being sufficient should consensus break down.” This “economic ruling elite” being “the final arbiter and beneficiary of the existing structure of American… politics and of United States power in the world.”

This the reason why US policy towards Syria has remained consistent for nearly a century. The CIA has been attempting, since its inception, to overthrow the Syrian government since the middle of the 20th century, through countless administrations and countless fluctuations between Democrats and Republicans. The core policy remains the same, so it should be no wonder that the current incumbent would opportunistically seize upon an opportunity to attack the Syrian state. These actions cannot solely be laid at the feat of the liberals nor domestic political concerns.

Instead, the overthrow of non-compliant regimes is a staple of US policy because doing so secures the economic and material interests of the dominant ruling class within America. It is within their interests for governments to allow their economies to be penetrated by Western corporations seeking to exploit their markets, and to denationalize state assets and coveted resources for the exploitation of foreign investors. Furthermore, these interests are further secured through regional support for US military aggression and occupations. This is why so much emphasis was put upon securing control over Iraqi oil and the establishment of US military bases in Iraq, and why similar aggressions are not pursued against client states which comply with these developments. Syria, although it began to allow Western economic penetration, has on the whole frustrated attempts for greater access. In addition, Syria has opposed US military aggression in the region, such as their attempts to undermine the occupation of Iraq.

The Logic of Imperialism

The other major issue is the pipeline war between the US and Russia over the natural gas field which bisects Iranian and Qatari territory, the largest in the world. Qatar’s attempts to connect their holdings directly to European markets was denied by Assad, while an Iranian and Russian-backed pipeline was put into motion. It is only after the ball began rolling on the Russian-Iranian-Syria pipeline that the insurgency was fostered against Assad.

This is why Trump has used this opportunity to further aggress upon the Syrian state, now writing up a new batch of sanctions to apply under the pretext of chemical weapons use. The sanctions, after all, are an economic siege against the entirety of the country, and are fueling much of the suffering and the fleeing of refugees. These new ones will continue a tactic of brutalization of the civilian population with little effect against the government, the strategy being to force massive economic suffering as a means to pressure the current regime. This is also why the US again is demanding Assad’s ouster, saying “There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.”


As self-righteous pundits, officials, and intellectuals who should know better wax poetically and bask in their own self-righteousness over how moral and justified this immoral act of aggression was, it is not hard to see why the world considers the US the leading threat to peace and a leading terrorist rogue state.

The US and its clients, who have all hailed Trump’s belligerent attacks on moralistic grounds, are the only states rampaging through the region attacking countries at will while destroying any that stand in their way. The US now, and the British before them, have consistently opposed and overthrown any truly progressive, democratic, and secular movement or government that has emerged in the Middle East while at the same time propping up the forces of extremist-Islam and fueling the spread of violent jihadism throughout the region. This is because the US has, since the 1950s, pursued an agenda of global domination and has insisted on securing its ambitions through tyranny and oppression.

Imagine, for an instance, that Syria manufactured a false claim and said the US military used chemical weapons against them, and used that pretext to launch a cruise missile assault on an American base in American territory, murdering the innocent civilians living nearby, including four children. Now imagine that on top of that, the officials and intellectuals from Syria didn’t apologize, but instead hailed the intolerable injustice as being a display of “justice done,” something that was “beautiful,” which elicited a “sense of emotional satisfaction” and was righteous and good, showing how heartfelt and compassionate they are.

How malicious and sociopathic would we view those officials?

Yet we all carry on, blind and drunk off the desire to dominate and control.


The logic of imperialism, is truly wondrous to behold.

The Purpose of ISIS, Pt. 5

This is the final of a 5 part report which attempts to detail a history of the rise of ISIS and to explain its true relations to the actors involved in the war theatre. It attempts to show how and why ISIS has been exploited while also answering the question:  what has been the group’s ultimate purpose in relation to the dominant powers manipulating the proxy conflict. Given what is known historically, it hopes to shed light on what the motivations are behind the current actions against the group, as well as, what purpose they serve.

The Strategic Asset, Then and Now

About a year after the fall of Mosul, ISIS as well overtook the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Afterwards, US intelligence and military officials revealed to Bloomberg that the US had “significant intelligence” about the pending attacking. For the US military, it was an “open secret” at the time, which “surprised no one.” The intelligence community was able to obtain “good warning” that ISIS was planning “a new and bolder offensive in Ramadi” because they had identified “the convoys of heavy artillery, vehicle bombs and reinforcements through overhead imagery and eavesdropping on chatter from local Islamic State commanders.”

Indeed, departing from ISIS’ base in Raqqa, these convoys consisted of long columns of vehicles and had travelled a full five-hundred and fifty kilometers through open desert in broad daylight to reach Ramadi. Despite this, the US coalition did not act, instead they “watched Islamic State fighters, vehicles and heavy equipment gather on the outskirts of Ramadi before the group retook the city.” The US “did not order airstrikes against the convoy before the battle started”, but instead “left the fighting to Iraqi troops, who ultimately abandoned their positions.”1

Commenting on this, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke noted that “the images of long columns of ISIS Toyota Land Cruisers, black pennants waving in the wind, making their way from Syria all the way – along empty desert main roads – to Ramadi with not an American aircraft in evidence, certainly needs some explaining.” He continues by pointing out that “there cannot be an easier target imagined than an identified column of vehicles, driving an arterial road, in the middle of a desert.”2

Even more troubling, it seems that the US had taken further precautions to ensure that the Iraqi forces would not be able to repel the ISIS attack. In the same Bloomberg report, US officials revealed that Iraqi government forces in Ramadi were not being properly resupplied, stating that ever since the US-led campaign began they had been forced to acquire weapons and ammunition on the black market since supplies were simply not reaching them.3

After the fall of the city to ISIS, Iraq was thereafter dependent on the US military to help repel the invading forces, which appears to parallel closely with the aforementioned strategy envisioned by think-tank analysts whereby “moderate or even radical Sunnis” could be useful in order to pressure and “put fear” into the government, and thereby help “encourage [them] to cooperate with the US.”4

Explaining further how such situations may be used for the political benefit of outside powers, University of Cincinnati’s Abraham Miller explains that “as long as there is chaos” like that produced by the Islamic State, then “there is a need for foreign intervention” such as the American intervention in Iraq. Such interventions are important opportunities because “with chaos and bloodshed come arm sales and political and economic influence.”5

This seems to track quite closely as well to a strategy envisioned for Iraq during the Bush administration. Co-authored by then Vice President Cheney and other influential neoconservatives, the strategy put particular importance on Washington being able “to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region”, which could be accomplished through the Iraqi state being weak and unable to defend itself, and therefore the US military would ostensibly be “necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection.” Yet the real reason for the US presence would be “to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies,” which “in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”6

Today much of this has been achieved, Iraq having been forced to ask the US for protection while the chaos and bloodshed justify further arms sales and help to expand political and economic influence over the country.

After the replacement of Maliki, Iraq has largely been secured by the US and rid of a lot of its former Iranian influences.7 Given this, the presence of ISIS now serves as a useful means to further demonstrate Iraq’s dependence on the US military, a dependence the US intends to nurture. In a telling admission, Secretary of State Tillerson confirmed that recent troop deployments would remain in the country after ISIS is defeated, in order to “help clear mines and establish stability.”8 As well, with the elimination of ISIS, Iran would be closed off from the opportunity of expanding its influence through its sponsoring of various proxy militias throughout the country.9

The symbolic victory of a US-backed ISIS defeat would further legitimize the US presence in Iraq and help convey a positive image of the US’ role in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the very recent threat that the Islamic State posed could be invoked in the future if the government in Baghdad ever flirted with closer Iranian ties or strayed too far from the US-designated course. With Trump’s increasingly Pentagon-influenced administration, the current fight against the Islamic State will also be useful in justifying increased arms sales both to the Iraqi forces and for the US jets flying overhead. In this sense, it appears “the political and military costs of defeating” ISIS would outweigh its previous functions.10

In Syria, however, the situation is different. In a revealing interview, the former British Prime Minister argued for Britain to join the US campaign against ISIS on the basis that it was a “direct threat to Britain”, and that he was “not prepared to subcontract the protection of British streets from terrorism to other countries’ air forces.” Analysts commented that such a remark was indicative of a policy among the Western administrations which would not allow other states genuinely allied to the embattled Syrian government to claim victory over ISIS for themselves.11 In this sense, while blocking others from defeating the group the universally accepted consensus of the need to eradicate the Islamic State could be transformed into an effective mandate to occupy and annex Syrian lands. With the attempt to overthrow the government having failed, strategy could shift from support to the opposition towards “defeating ISIS.”

Signaling the adoption of such a strategy, the Trump administration announced that it “accepts” the “political reality… with respect to Assad”, and that “foremost among its priorities” from here on out would be “the defeat of ISIS.”12

In many ways this realization was already understood in the final months of the Obama administration, exemplified by the withdrawal of their demand that “Assad must go” and support instead of a negotiated settlement.13 The plan, however, is not to fully abandon regime-change, but to focus on “ISIS” and then after occupation continue to exert pressure and push for Assad’s ouster.

The Partition of Syria

The change in strategy has further become apparent with indications that the CIA has discontinued its covert support for the opposition.14 This represents the failure of the regime-change effort while as well being indicative of the change in political leadership within the White House.

The transition from Obama to Trump represents a long-standing rivalry between the CIA and the Pentagon. During the Obama administration, the Pentagon forcefully opposed the CIA rebel program on the very realistic grounds that it was empowering Islamist extremists, even going so far as to leak military intelligence in order to subvert the operations’ success.15 However, the sectors of power that Obama represented largely centered around the CIA and NSA intelligence apparatus and therefore the program had continued. The Trump administration however largely represents the interests of weapons manufacturers, defense contractors, and the military industrial complex as a whole and is centered around the political leadership of the military and the Pentagon. The public displays of liberal antagonism to Trump are largely a reflection of this internal power-struggle, as are the administration’s efforts to consolidate control over the intelligence agencies and to increase the discretionary powers of the military establishment.

Under Trump the military’s influence over foreign policy has vastly increased, the Defense Secretary being granted leave to authorize deployments and operations with little oversight from the chief executive.16 The result of this has been an increase in the power of the vested interests behind the military industrial base and their ability to steer the course and direction of US foreign policy strategy. The main consequence being the specific character that US imperialism will take, a shift from secretive drone strikes, covert regime-change operations, and the financing of extremist elements towards a strategy of direct military deployment and the securing of foreign-policy interests through overt military operations.17

Thus, the CIA rebel-sponsoring program under Trump has ceased while the footprint of the US military in Syria has grown,18 and the beginning indications of a military occupation have started to become visible.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “there is growing receptiveness among US and international officials to the idea of setting up unofficial Syria safe zones.” The nature of these “safe-zones” was described by the French Foreign Minister, who hypothesized “they would cover areas retaken from the Islamic State and help people return to their homes.” However, the plan is for US troops to stay in the region long after ISIS is defeated, US Central Command Army General Joseph Votel announcing that US forces will be “required” to stabilize the region and assist “America’s allies” on the ground for the foreseeable future. The zones would therefore consist of Syrian lands directly under the security control of the US military and their partners on the ground, Secretary of State Tillerson describing them as “interim zones of stability” which would “allow refugees to return home”, wherein the coalition would “help to restore water and electricity” and other vital infrastructure, authority over which is necessary for political control.19

In many ways, this strategy is not new, and was considered as a “plan B” of sorts by planners during the Obama administration.

Exemplifying this mindset, Henry Kissinger had earlier put forward proposals which justified the annexation of Syrian lands under the pretext of defeating ISIS. “In a choice among strategies”, he writes, “it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadists or imperial forces.” The strategy called for the post-Islamic State areas to be put under the direct political control of US allies, who, of course, have been heavily invested in the overthrow of the Syrian state: “The reconquered territories should be restored to the local Sunni rule that existed there before the disintegration of both Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty. The sovereign states of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt and Jordan, should play a principal role in that evolution.” Turkey, as well, “could contribute creatively to such a process.”

The plan then called for a partition of Syria between these newly annexed entities and the areas still under Syrian government control: “As the terrorist region is being dismantled and brought under nonradical political control, the future of the Syrian state should be dealt with concurrently. A federal structure could then be built between the Alawite and Sunni portions.”20

In many ways, recent US maneuvers have shown that this is, in fact, the course of action being pursued.

The US military has long been setting up key infrastructure such as numerous military bases and an airport within the semi-autonomous Kurdish regions in Syria where hundreds of its special forces maintain a military presence; an indication of long-term plans to remain and establish autonomous regions within the country which the Syrian government would be prevented from reclaiming.21 As well, the US has recently conducted an unprecedented military operation involving hundreds of US soldiers aimed at reclaiming the Tabqa dam from the Islamic State, which is described by the New York Times as an vitally “important power source for north Syria.” The operation is understood to be a precursor to the launching of an offensive against ISIS’ de-facto capital of Raqqa in a final push to eliminate the group.22

The main consequence of the  maneuver however has been to block the advance of the Syrian army and Russian air force, preventing them from moving onwards toward Raqqa and claiming victory over ISIS for themselves, harkening back to the strategy invoked by the West of being unwilling to “subcontract the protection of [its] streets from terrorism to other countries’ air forces.”23 International correspondent Elijah J. Magnier explains this operation represents the drawing of a line “of the new ‘safe zone’ that will be occupied by the US forces and will therefore be their future ‘safe haven’, thus beginning the partition of the north of Syria.”24

This paves the way for the split-up of the country into three separate zones of influence, a pro-US Kurdish northeast, a Syrian government controlled west and south, and likely a Turkish-occupied northwest.

The conquest of ISIS’ main capital by US-backed forces would allow Trump to gain a useful “symbolic victory” that will increase his domestic political standing, especially after justifying much of his administrations military build-up under the pretext of fighting extremist groups.25 The increased US military involvement will legitimize further arms sales for domestic weapons industries. As well, the strategy could see the US pushing ISIS towards cities controlled by the Syrian army, thereby keeping the pressure on Russia and Iran as they go about the partition of the country. Most importantly, the US will likely be able to ensure that any pipeline project aimed at directly connecting Iranian gas to European markets would be stymied and unable to pass through Syrian lands, especially those under their control, thus protecting such markets for Western corporations.26

All of this ensures that Syria remains a weakened state which the West will be able to exert significant influence over. After ISIS is dealt with and balkanization is accomplished the subsequent land and leverage gained can be utilized to continue the process of removing Assad from power. According to Tillerson, “The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires an international community effort—both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country, to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.”27


In this way, the threat of ISIS continues to serve its intended purpose of securing Western corporate and investor control over important consumer markets and valuable Middle Eastern energy resources. ISIS therefore representing the “gift that keeps on giving”,28 which continues to proliferate the interests of the Western powers and their strategic attempts for hegemony over the Middle East.

Those killed in the process outweighed by the “function” represented in the “political structure” of the Islamic State, as professor Abraham Miller describes, whose proliferation of “chaos is perceived to serve a multiplicity of purposes within and outside the region”,29 as can be seen in the recent maneuvers ostensibly aimed at the disintegration of the group.


Notes:

1.)    Bloomberg, “U.S. Saw Islamic State Coming, Let It Take Ramadi”, 28 May 2015.
2.)   Huffington Post, “If Syria and Iraq Become Fractured, So Too Will Tripoli and North Lebanon”, 1 June 2015.
3.)   Bloomberg, “U.S. Saw Islamic State Coming, Let It Take Ramadi”, 28 May 2015.
4.)   C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 367. Citing The New Yorker, “The Redirection”, 5 March 2007. Remarks made by Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
5.)   Ibid., p. 444. Citing Daily Caller, “Understanding The Function Of The Islamic State”, 19 June 2015.
6.)   Guardian, “Iraq blowback: Isis rise manufactured by insatiable oil addiction”, 6 June 2014.
7.)   Al Rai Media Group (Arabic), “USA pushes Iran out of Iraq and leaves Syria to Russia”, 19 January 2016. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/usa-pushes-iran-out-of-iraq-and-leaves-syria-to-russia/.
8.)  Yahoo! News, “Allies vow to destroy IS as attacks overshadow talks”, 23 March 2017.
9.)   “The United States came back to Mesopotamia from the same wide door that was asked to withdraw by the Vice-President and former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that favoured the Iranian influence. ISIS occupation of part of the country and the slow American reaction after July 2014 allowed Iran to increase and expand its influence through arming directly secondary Iraqi groups, and extend its support to Baghdad and Erbil. But the support was not enough to stop the ISIS expansion. Iran soon realised its inability to reach a Shia – Shia, Shia – Sunni and Shia – Kurdish unity or reconciliation. It has failed to stop the tiresome requests for an American intervention in Iraq by the Iraqi administration.” Al Rai Media Group (Arabic), “USA pushes Iran out of Iraq and leaves Syria to Russia”, 19 January 2016. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/usa-pushes-iran-out-of-iraq-and-leaves-syria-to-russia/.
10.)           C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 444. Citing Daily Caller, “Understanding The Function Of The Islamic State”, 19 June 2015.
11.)            Ibid., p. 428. Citing BBC Online, “MPs support UK air strikes against IS in Iraq”, 26 September 2014.
12.)           New York Times, “White House Accepts ‘Political Reality’ of Assad’s Grip on Power in Syria”, 31 March 2017.
13.)           C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, pp. 511-14.; Moon of Alabama, “Syria - Trump Administration Will Continue Obama Policy”, 31 March 2017.
14.)           Reuters, “Exclusive: CIA-backed aid for Syrian rebels frozen after Islamist attack – sources”, 21 February 2017.
15.)           London Review of Books, “Military to Military”, 7 January 2016.
16.)           New York Times, “Trump Shifting Authority Over Military Operations Back to Pentagon”, 19 March 2017.
17.)            New York Times, “U.S. War Footprint Grows in Middle East, With No Endgame in Sight”, 29 March 2017.
18.)           New York Times, “U.S. Is Sending 400 More Troops to Syria”, 9 March 2017.; Army Times, “The U.S. is sending 2,500 troops to Kuwait, ready to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq”, 9 March 2017.
19.)           Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Weighs ‘Zones of Stability’ As Part of Anti-Islamic State Effort”, 22 March 2017.; Army Times, “The U.S. is sending 2,500 troops to Kuwait, ready to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq”, 9 March 2017.
20.)          Wall Street Journal, “A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse”, 16 October 2015.
21.)           Al Rai Media Group (Arabic), “The roles of the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel in Syria: moving towards the end of the war”, 14 March 2017. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/the-roles-of-the-us-russia-turkey-iran-and-israel-in-syria-moving-towards-the-end-of-the-war/.
22.)          New York Times, “U.S. Airlifts Hundreds of Militia Fighters in Attack to Cut Off Raqqa, Syria”, 22 March 2017.; Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Increases Support for New Anti-ISIS Operation in Syria”, 22 March 2017.
23.)          C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 428. Citing BBC Online, “MPs support UK air strikes against IS in Iraq”, 26 September 2014.
24.)          Al Rai Media Group (Arabic), “Washington is uprooting part of Syria, demarcating its new “safe haven”, 27 March 2017. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/washington-is-uprooting-part-of-syria-demarcating-its-new-safe-heaven/.
25.)          Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Forces Get More Freedom to Strike Militants in Somalia”, 30 March 2017.
26.)          See The Guardian, “Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern”, 30 August 2013.; Foreign Affairs, “Putin’s Gas Attack: Is Russia Just in Syria for the Pipelines?”, 14 October, 2015.; Middle East Eye, “The US-Russia gas pipeline war in Syria could destabalise Putin”, 30 October 2015.; EcoWatch, “Syria: Another Pipeline War”, 25 February 2016.
27.)           Daily Beast, “Tillerson: ‘Steps Underway’ for U.S.-Led Coalition to Remove Assad”, 6 April 2017.
28.)          C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, pp. 469-504.
29.)          Ibid., p. 444. Citing Daily Caller, “Understanding The Function Of The Islamic State”, 19 June 2015.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Purpose of ISIS, Pt. 4

This is part 4 of a 5 part report which attempts to detail a history of the rise of ISIS and to explain its true relations to the actors involved in the war theatre. It attempts to show how and why ISIS has been exploited while also answering the question:  what has been the group’s ultimate purpose in relation to the dominant powers manipulating the proxy conflict.  Given what is known historically, it hopes to shed light on what the motivations are behind the current actions against the group, as well as what purpose they serve.

The Purpose of ISIS

Awkwardly for those at the helm of the US-led bombing campaign, as time went on it became increasingly apparent that not only was the Islamic State not being “degraded and destroyed”, but, in fact, was growing and taking control of even more territory. This was further compounded by the groups’ relatively weak military capabilities, and the fact that the areas they occupied consisted mainly of open countryside with relatively few areas to hide their equipment and convoys.1 US war veterans have even remarked that the US could have turned the tide against the organization using only aircrafts from the WWII-era, while other academics explain that “an international force could defeat ISIS in a matter of months” if they wanted to.2 Despite all of this, after months of airstrikes, the Wall Street Journal noted that the US had “failed to prevent the Islamic State from expanding its control in Syria”, while the British press explained that “in both Syria and Iraq, Isis is expanding its control rather than contracting.”3

In fact, while the Pentagon paraded around statistics of killed ISIS fighters to showcase the campaign’s success, in reality by the summer of 2015 the Islamic State had seen a doubling in the number of its foreign fighters, more than replacing any of those claimed to have been killed.4 Maps were similarly published showing ISIS’ territorial losses, yet at the same time evidence showed that its other territorial gains had actually offset any sort of contraction.5 So while US aircraft patrolled the skies around the so-called caliphate, its fighters were more than free to roam throughout the territory they had claimed. Indeed, convoys consisting of upwards of hundreds of vehicles were mainly free to travel in long columns in wide-open desert terrain despite the ease with which such targets could be hit by US aircrafts.6

As this continued, it became increasingly difficult to conceal the truth, especially as Department of Defense analysts began to break ranks and complain that their superiors within senior levels of the intelligence command had deliberately been altering reports, downplaying the campaign’s failures and presenting it in a much more positive light.7 Furthermore, with the introduction of the Russian intervention, the insincerity of the US effort was even more  laid bare. Not only had the Russians conducted more sorties against the group in one day than the US had in months, one of their first targets were its oil truck convoys which the US had deliberately refrained from hitting during their entire year-long campaign, despite it being one of the groups’ biggest sources of revenue.8 Awkwardly as well, it was becoming increasingly apparent that US fighter jets were being particularly careful about avoiding engagement whenever ISIS was fighting against US adversaries such as the Syrian army or Hezbollah, a situation which was not lost on the administrations in Tehran and Damascus.9

The motivations underlying all of this were quite clearly articulated by an Iraqi army officer who argued that the “Americans weren’t really that serious in hitting the Islamic State.” Getting even closer to the truth, a commander of a Shia militia fighting in Iraq as well explained “we believe the US does not want to resolve the crisis but rather wants to manage the crisis… it does not want to end the Islamic State. It wants to exploit the Islamic State to achieve its projects in Iraq and in the region.”10

Elaborating on the US’ calculation even further, international correspondent Elijah J. Magnier explained that “as long as ISIS was headed towards creating a serious danger to Assad in Syria”, then its presence could be tolerated. The strategy revolved around maintaining “the organizations continuing ability to fight for as long as necessary in the process [of] depleting Iran, Hezbollah and its Iraqi proxies in Syria… Its continuing presence was needed so as to exhaust Iran and its allies in both Iraq and Syria.”11

One of the more prominent examples of this was when ISIS began to expand its control over territories outside of Syria and led an offensive into Iraq.

The offensive was known to US intelligence long before it was launched. Indeed, far from being indecipherable, the Wall Street Journal explained that such an advance was “apparent to anyone paying attention to Middle Eastern events”, noting that it “wasn’t an intelligence failure. It was a failure by policy makers to act on events that were becoming so obvious that the Iraqis were asking for American help for months... Mr. Obama declined to offer more than token assistance.”12

The reasons for this lie in the continuing shift towards Iran that was being undertaken by then Prime Minister Maliki and the subsequent expansion of Iranian influence over the Iraqi government that resulted. By this time, Maliki had appointed the pro-Iranian Hadi al-Amiri as transport minister, and in doing so “had effectively given Tehran the green light to use Iraqi infrastructure to channel supplies and fighters through the country to fight in Syria.”13 Even more troubling, knowledgeable reports indicated that Maliki’s main objective was to prevent the establishment of any US military bases in the country, following an official request by Iran.14 Therefore, for those committed to toppling the increasingly Iranian-backed Nouri al-Maliki administration, the ISIS offensive represented an important opportunity.

In this sense, the failure of the US to respond was explained by Obama himself. He noted that the US “did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIS came in” specifically because “that would have taken pressure off of al-Maliki.”15 Indeed, harkening back to the aforementioned strategy of utilizing radical Sunni’s to pressure and put “fear into the government of Prime Minister Maliki”,16 Obama said that a more forceful US response would have encouraged Maliki to think “We don’t actually have to make compromises. We don’t have to make any decisions. We don’t have to go through the difficult process of figuring out what we’ve done wrong in the past. All we have to do is let the Americans bail us out again. And we can go about business as usual.”17

Therefore, Al Rai newspaper’s Elijah J. Magnier explains that “as long as the aim of ISIS’s military activity and expansion was to occupy land in Iraq, governed by pro-Iranian Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (creating a weak state and much confusion in the Iraq-Iran relationship)”, then “the ISIS presence in Iraq could be tolerated” by the US.18

The result of this offensive was the unprecedented capture of Mosul, shocking observers worldwide.

Despite having a fighting force of no less than 350,000 battle-hardened soldiers, the Iraqi security forces simply “disintegrated and fled” in the face of roughly 1,300 lightly-armed ISIS jihadists.19 This was later explained by analysts as being the result of corruption within the military, or due to indications that ISIS was welcomed by a significant portion of the population, or that it had in many ways already been operating a shadow government of sorts within the city.20 While indicative, ISIS’ uncontested walk-in to Mosul  could have been more directly linked to the desire of outside powers to replace Prime Minister Maliki. Indeed, the Gulf states did little to hide their animosity towards Maliki or their desire to overthrow his regime. As professor Fouad Ajami pointed out, after the US invasion “the Gulf autocracies had hunkered down and done their best to thwart the new Iraqi project” and were hoping to turn Maliki’s Iraq into a “cautionary tale of the folly of unseating even the worst of despots.”21 At least from Maliki’s own perspective, it was Saudi Arabia and Qatar which were the main drivers of his overthrow.22

Whatever the case, it was the pressure exerted on Maliki from the loss of Mosul and the inability to halt the Islamic States’ advances that were the main catalysts which lead to his ouster. According to one Wall Street Journal reporter, “After the rout of the Iraqi military that year, combined pressure from Washington and Tehran led the Iraqi parliament to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, seen in both capitals as responsible for the debacle, and to replace him with current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi."23

In this sense, the presence of the Islamic State had served a number of purposes for the outside powers involved within the region. Put in other words, University of Cincinnati professor emeritus Abraham Miller explains that “the Islamic State exists as a political structure whose function outweighs the political and military costs of defeating it, not just for the US but also for the Sunni sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf.” Functions which include providing “a direct check on the hegemonic interests of Iran to extend its reach from its eastern border into the Levant… The threat they [ISIS] pose is tolerated even by the Gulf sheikdoms as long as ISIS is focused on stopping Iranian hegemony.” Because of this, “Obama has no intention of destroying the Islamic State”, but rather “ISIS is a chain reaction. As long as it is controlled, its chaos is perceived to serve a multiplicity of purposes within and outside the region.”24


Notes:

1.)    C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, pp. 430-31.
2.)   Ibid., p. 433. Citing Fox News, “Cruz fires up conservatives, says bomb Islamic State back to the Stone Age”, 31 August 2014.; Daily Caller, “Understanding The Function Of The Islamic State”, 19 June 2015.
3.)   Ibid., p. 431. Citing Wall Street Journal, “US-led Airstrikes Disrupt Islamic State, But Extremists Hold Territory”, 5 October 2014, Wall Street Journal, “Months of Airstrikes Fail to Slow Islamic State in Syria”, 15 January 2015. The Independent, “War against Isis: US air strategy in tatters as militants march on”, 11 October 2014.
4.)   C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 432. Citing New York Times, “Thousands Enter Syria to Join ISIS Despite Global Efforts”, 26 September 2015.
5.)   Ibid., p. 442. Citing Daily Beast, “Exclusive: Pentagon Map Hides ISIS Gains”, 22 April 2015.
6.)   McClatchy, “Rebels call for U.S. airstrikes as Islamic State advances near Aleppo”, 1 June 2015.; C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 432-33.; Huffington Post, “If Syria and Iraq Become Fractured, So Too Will Tripoli and North Lebanon.” 1 June 2015.
7.)   C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, pp. 441-42. Citing New York Times, “Analysts Detail Claims That Reports on ISIS Were Distorted”, 15 September 2015.; Daily Beast, “Exclusive: Pentagon Map Hides ISIS Gains”, 22 April 2015.
8.)  Moon of Alabama, “Russia Finds - Shaming The U.S. Government Into Action Can Work”, 3 October 2016.; C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 443. Citing The Independent, “War in Syria: Russia’s rustbucket military delivers a hi-tech shock to West and Israel”, 30 January 2016.
9.)   Alrai Media Group (Arabic), “Obama has the upper hand over Iran and Russia in Syria and Iraq, And without major ground forces”, 17 August 2016. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/obama-has-the-upper-hand-over-iran-and-russia-in-syria-and-iraq-and-without-major-ground-forces/.
10.)           C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 438-39. Citing Rudaw (Kurdish), “The stunning story of the fall of Ramadi”, 24 May 2015. Quotes made by Qais al-Khazali, leader of Iran-backed paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Reuters, “Iraqi militia leader says US not serious about fighting Islamic State”, 28 July 2015.
11.)            Alrai Media Group (Arabic), “Obama has the upper hand over Iran and Russia”, 17 August 2016. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/obama-has-the-upper-hand-over-iran-and-russia-in-syria-and-iraq-and-without-major-ground-forces/.
12.)           Wall Street Journal, “Obama on Faulty Intelligence”, 30 September 2014.
13.)           C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 385.
14.)           Alrai Media Group (Arabic), “Obama has the upper hand over Iran and Russia”, 17 August 2016. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/obama-has-the-upper-hand-over-iran-and-russia-in-syria-and-iraq-and-without-major-ground-forces/.
15.)           New York Times, “Obama on the World”, 8 August 2014.
16.)           C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 367. Citing The New Yorker, “The Redirection”, 5 March 2007. Remarks made by Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
17.)            Ibid., p. 367. Citing The New Yorker, “The Redirection”, 5 March 2007. Remarks made by Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
18.)           Alrai Media Group (Arabic), “Obama has the upper hand over Iran and Russia”, 17 August 2016. Translated at https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/obama-has-the-upper-hand-over-iran-and-russia-in-syria-and-iraq-and-without-major-ground-forces/.
19.)           P. Cockburn, The Rise of Islamic State, p. 15.
20.)          C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, pp. 385-86.
21.)           Ibid., p. 384. Citing Ajami, “The Arab Spring at One”.
22.)          Ibid., p. 388. Citing Press TV (Iran), “Exclusive: Maliki says Iran has important role in territorial integrity of regional countries”, 23 November 2014.
23.)          Wall Street Journal, “After Mosul, Will U.S.-Iran Rivalry Undermine Iraq?”, 16 March 2017.

24.)          C. Davidson, Shadow Wars, p. 444. Citing Daily Caller, “Understanding The Function Of The Islamic State”, 19 June 2015.