During the KSU/Basta on ISIS and Iraq, Abulkasim Al-Jaberi, journalist and political activist shared a sharp analysis on the rise of the Islamic State and the role of the West. We publish here the third part of his text.
The West in support of Islamic State fighters
This tradition of supporting the Wahhabi ideology (see Part II) is being proudly carried on today. This is taking various forms, ranging from direct arming and training of rebels, to holding off Bashar al Assad’s forces, effectively giving Islamic State fighters refuge in the North of Syria. Carrying on the legacy, the US, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates have all played a crucial role in the most recent Islamic State advance. It is important to keep in mind that the Syrian government has for a long time been considered a pariah state by the US, meaning one who’s elites are not coopted, and a government who has a generally hostile disposition towards US meddling in the region. The main beneficiary of this attitude has been the Islamic State. It is because of this dynamic that the West has so far pursued a Syria policy predicated on the departure of Bashar al Assad. This is an illusion, given that of Syria’s 14 provincial capitals, 13 are held by Al Asad. The 14th, oil rich Raqqa, is controlled by the Islamic State. Yet, the West wants to see Al Assad go so bad that they have long continued to pursue this flawed policy, allowing the conflict to continue. This has also translated into direct and indirect support for the Islamic State, Assad’s main adversary. This is of course predicated on the logic of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. This exposes yet again the inconsistency in Western policy: In some conflict theaters IS is our friend, and in others, like in Iraq, they are our sworn enemy. This dual attitude is what allowed IS to grow, a policy that backfired when they launched the attack on Mosul on June tenth. Let’s take a look at the details of the logistical and military support.
NATO member Turkey kept its Syrian borders open to rebels, consciously providing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with a safe-heaven, where ISIS fighters were trained and supplied with weapons. And there has been no pressure on Turkey to secure the 500 mile border with Syria. On the contrary, NATO also positioned patriot missiles and 1,200 troops on the Syrian-Turkish border, preventing Syrian pilots from venturing into northern Syria. The no fly zone imposed on al Assad in this region has allowed IS to comfortably hold the northern one third of the country.
In December 2012, CNN reported that rebel groups are receiving training from the US and European allies in Jordan and Turkey. This is confirmed by World Net Daily journalist Aron Klein who writes that the United States has secretly trained Islamic State fighters in Jordan. Jordanian officials told Klein that ”all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like Al Qaida.” We’ll see in a bit that this policy of supporting carefully selected groups is based on a myth. The New York Times revealed the US has knowingly shipped arms on the request of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to jihadi hardliners fighting Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. Reuters reported in August 2012, “A U.S. government source acknowledged that … the United States … along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, [and] Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents” even though “reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al-Qaida or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.”
If we look at Libya, we see that the same policy was pursued. In order to get rid of a not so US friendly government, NATO and the US armed rebel groups to fight against Gaddafi. Retired US Lieutenant General Tom McInerney: “In Syria we backed I believe, in some cases, the wrong people. And not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army. That’s a little confusing to people. I think it’s going to turn out, that some of the weapons from Ben Ghazi, ended up in the hands of Isis. So we helped build Isis. We need to take down Isis, and we can do that without boosting Bashar al Assad, if we back the right groups, and we attack those parts of the Isis elements that are doing the attacks in Iraq.”
McInerney is right that the US and its allies have effectively armed the rebels, by giving weapons to the wrong groups. He is wrong in reproducing the US myth of arming moderate opposition fighters. The policy of arming and training the supposedly carefully selected benevolent opposition groups is based on a naïve and convenient misconception. It reduces the conflict to one between the forces of good versus the forces of evil, which is a widely spread fabrication of course. The Islamic state is the single most powerful armed group fighting Bashar al Asad and it has coopted other opposition groups. No other group can match their fighting experience, their economic capacity and their access to modern weaponry. They’ve also engaged in fighting with other opposition groups and currently there is not much left of those moderates the US wants to arm. Many of them have even joined the IS ranks when they saw them book success after success. Another incentive for people to join IS is their capacity to pay salaries of 400 to 500 US dollars a month to otherwise impoverished and disgruntled youth. This means that in the current situation it is impossible to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys. Even if we allow for such a reductive analysis, any weaponry flowing into the conflict is very likely to fall in the hands of the Islamic State. Even Iraq’s army, with 350.000 US trained men, in addition to 650.000 strong police force, has been a generous source of weapons for the Islamic State. The US has spent over 20 billion dollars in the past couple of years to train and build the Iraqi army. Yet, on June tenth, when IS swept the city of Mosul, entire battalions abandoned their posts and fled in terror. American provided tanks and artillery were generously left behind, and are now being used by IS to besiege the Kurds on the Turkish border. So yet again we see that US manufactured arms, whether provided indirectly through Gulf countries, the Saudis or the Iraqi army, or directly through arming rebel groups, have played a crucial role at every stage of the crisis.
If, as the US states, their purpose is to generate world dominance, then it only logical that the policies they pursue are inherently anti democratic. Nobody wants a foreign military power to occupy their country, steal their resources, and kill their people. Nobody wants their children’s limbs blown off by instruments of death and destruction.
Zbigniew Brezinski’s words about the threat of democracy ring more true than ever today. As long as the US continues to mobilize its military and economic hegemony to suffocate any semblance of democratic people’s movements, we have a bleak future ahead.
The crimes committed by the powers that invaded Iraq, have been reported as victimless crimes. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ as one US official said. The victims of imperial violence therefore remain invisible. That is why I want to tell you the story of Samar Hassan.
How many people know James Foley? Almost everyone does by now. How about Samar Hassan? She is one of the countless nameless victims. In January 2005 her parents were killed by a US patrol in Tal Afar. Samar Hassan was 5 years old at the time and their blood splattered on her face.
Talking about worthy and unworthy victims…
I want to conclude with a piece by an Iraqi poet:
My beloved Iraq,
You have seen all the faces of tyranny
The dictatorial one
The humanitarian one
The democratically elected one