Well, we're bombing targets in Syria. Judging from this report
and what we read in the NYT
, I don't see how we can do much to change the situation without an invading army. We can take out some buildings in Raqqa; we can kill ISIS personnel and civilians. But without an army, how can we make the city change hands? And if we don't intend to make the city change hands, then what is the point?
But ISIS is, like, so five minutes ago. All of the hip kids are talking about the new
extremist group in town. It's called Khorasan, it's led by one Muhsin al-Fadhli
, and it's more surreal than a David Lynch film festival.
Little is known about al-Fadhli, though the Department of State says he was based in Iran. But hardly any public information was available about the group before this week and some are suggesting the Khorasan group is simply a renaming of already-known Al-Qaeda operatives in Syria.
That started to change in the last week, as stories about Khorasan began appearing in the media. U.S. officials have described the group as being part of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria fighting both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as well as ISIS.
Lots to chew on here. First: Iran?
Wikipedia says that al-Fadhli was born in Kuwait and was so close to Osama Bin Laden as to have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. At the time, little Muhsin was all of 20 years old. The NYT published this profile
of him a few days ago; it vaguely connects al-Fadhli with an attack on a French oil tanker in 2002. The Arab Times
(an English-language newspaper published in Kuwait) has more, citing "informed sources."
At this point, we enter a realm of unnerving contradictions.
The Nusra front is fanatically Sunni, while Iran is the Shiite state par excellence
. Iran is in wary alliance with Bashar Assad's government in Syria. Iran certainly has no logical reason to see Assad fall -- at least, none that I
And yet are to believe that al-Fadhli works out of Iran, presumably with the blessing of the Iranian government. (The Arab Times story cited above says that he was under house arrest in 2011.)
And we are to believe that he has commandeered the Nusra front, which is funded by Iran's enemies. Nusra strives to undermine Assad and to create a Sunni superpower -- a superpower which might one day threaten Iran.
Oh. And under the leadership of al-Fadhli, Nusra has declared war on "Da’esh" -- which is, in Arabic, an insulting term for ISIS. He has also declared war against Assad and the FSA. All against all.
Does this story make sense to you?
Once again, I feel like we're all trapped in that old cartoon in which the cheese-hating mice ask to be eaten by the cat who wants to be killed by the bulldog. It don't add up!
More ominously, we are told that the main purpose of Khorasan is not the conquest of Syria per se but the planning of attacks on the United States
But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.
In addition, according to classified U.S. intelligence assessments, the Khorasan militants have been working with bomb-makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip explosives past airport security. The fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.
The Obama administration has said that the Islamic State group, the target of more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in recent weeks, does not pose an imminent threat to the continental U.S. The Khorasan group, which has not been subject to American military action, is considered the more immediate threat.
Why would anyone involved with the fight in Syria be plotting a terror strike against the United States now
? Is it not the case that such a strike would only create massive American public support for sending in ground troops? What other
effect could a terror bombing have?
And since this al-Fadhli fellow can be linked to Iran, a terror strike would give the neocons their wet dream: A casus belli against Iran.
Why on earth would the Iranians want
that? What's in it for them?
Why would anyone involved with the Syrian civil war (pro-Assad or anti-) want to see American ground troops in that country?
The redoubtable Heather Digby Parton is the only blogger known to me who has written about Khorasan before today. Her latest offering is titled: "It's not making sense guys"
Read the whole thing because it's fascinating and informative, but take a couple of Excedrin first because sorting out the truth from the propaganda is impossible.
Anyway, when you see this kind of contradictory and confusing rationalizing after the bombing campaign has begun, it's probably a good idea to be skeptical that it's all on the up and up. It's happening, whether we like it or not, and the American people seem to be on board. Those videos were a master stroke. But we really have no idea what's really going on.
Oh, and it's nice to know that congress, the alleged overseer that's going to check the president's war making powers, was kept informed about all this for months.
I have a truly bad feeling about this. Remember all of the "Saddam plotted 9/11" disinformation tales that we saw throughout 2002-3? Remember the "Iran funded Bin Laden" fables that popped up throughout that period?
An (alleged) explanation:
The Arab Times offers this rationale as to why Iran would supposedly back a group aimed against an ally....
The Iranian regime strives to achieve a set of objectives from such a double deal, out of which the most important objective is to flood Syria with extremists and terrorists to help its ally — Assad’s regime to give the impression that the latter is fighting a ‘war of terror’. Such an objective will give Assad’s regime the opportunity to continue with the war, using the excuse of the ‘terror card’ as his top agenda in any political discussion he engages with the opposition.
Color me doubtful. This narrative sounds a lot like the "Assad created ISIS" guff we were getting not long ago.
Remember: The Arab Times is a product of Kuwait. Wealthy Kuwaitis have backed both ISIS
and al-Fadhli himself
What is Kuwait's "angle" on all of this? Here's what CNN
has to say:
Al Fadhli was designated as a terrorist by the United States in 2005 as "a major facilitator" for al Qaeda and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, then terrorizing Iraq. He had access to plenty of money from private donors in Kuwait. According to court testimony, he had been involved in a group called the Peninsula Lions in Kuwait and had experimented with explosives while planning an attack on U.S. troops at the Arifjan Camp in Kuwait.
Al Fadhli escaped. Wanted in Saudi Arabia and convicted in absentia in Kuwait, he vanished for a while before resurfacing in Iran as al Qaeda's most senior representative there.
In 2012, the U.S. State Department said al Fadhli was moving fighters and money through Turkey to Syria, leveraging his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors.
So. Some people in Kuwait are giving the guy lots of money, while others want him in jail because he was planning terror attacks in that country.
don't add up.
One last question. Remember that NYT story which linked al-Fadhi to an attack on a French oil tanker in 2002? Well, I'm wondering: What strategic purpose did that attack serve? Near as I can tell, the logical effect of such an attack would be to impel France to join Dubya's war against Al Qaeda, which became a war against Saddam Hussein.