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Saturday, May 16, 2015

The hidden truth about Abu Sayyaf

Days after Seymour Hersh offered his alternative version of Bin Laden death, we are told that a strikingly similar raid took out an hitherto little-known ISIS figure named Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf is not a name familiar to many ISIS watchers and may well be a pseudonym. Sources familiar with the operation said he also was known by the names Abu Muhammad al Iraqi and Abd al Ghani.
(Until now, the name Abu Sayyaf ("Father of the Sword-bearer") was primarily associated with a group based in the Philippines. Intriguingly, a leader of the group -- Isnilon Totoni Hapilon -- has pledged loyalty to ISIS. A long time ago, we heard reports that Terry Nichols, an associate of Tim McVeigh, traveled to the Philippines and met with members of Abu Sayyaf.)

My first thought: Why did Obama send in the special forces to take out this guy? Why not use drones? It's hard to escape the suspicion that this operation is pure theater: Take that, Sy.

My second thought was even more outlandish. What if "Abu Sayyaf" is a fictional character? What if his death is pure Wag the Dog?

Although that kind of speculation can be a lot of fun, this story indicates that "Abu Sayyaf" is the war name for a Jordanian cleric named Mohammed al-Shalabi. You don't have to do much Googling to pick up this guy's trail. Here's an interview with the man published in 2014. If you mentally substitute a few terms, he sounds very much like one of our Dominionist Christians.

In this report, al-Shalabi responds testily to the claim that Salafist jihadis are loyal to Israel. Al-Shalabi is mentioned briefly in this interesting article, which discusses the growing jihadist movement against the government of Jordan -- a development rarely discussed by the American media.

So the man is real enough. I've found no independent evidence that he helped to direct "oil, gas, and financial operations," but I see no pressing reason to doubt that claim.

(Of course, the Islamic State could not profit from oil and gas unless it had buyers, which means that ISIS must be the friend of our friends in Turkey. Funny how our news media never talks about that...)

Here's a rather revealing report from 2011, before ISIS congealed into tangibility. As you might expect, Al Shalabi is portrayed as the leader of the jihad movement in Jordan.

But there are some genuinely surprising aspects of this man's backstory...
Abu Sayyaf was sentenced to death in 2006 because of riots he was accused of leading in 2002 against Jordanian authorities. After being pursued by security forces for months, he was ultimately arrested. In 2007 a special pardon commuted his death sentence. He was instead meant to serve 15 years of hard labor in prison. However, in June 2011 a new special pardon permitted his release just four years into his new sentence ( August 29).
Remind you of anyone? My thoughts immediately went to the suspicious way Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, currently the leader of ISIS, was allowed to walk away from American custody.

I'm no expert on Jordan, but what I have read indicates that the place isn't run by sissies. The security services there can be downright paranoid. If they perceive you as a genuine threat to the kingdom, you may very well spend the rest of your life in the kind of cell that Ben-Hur's mom called home.

So why was this guy -- the leader of a full-stop insurrection -- singled out for special treatment? First his death sentence goes away, then he just walks out of the prison gates. Buh-bye.

Obviously, this man had an angel on his side. The Powers Above had a job for him to do.

"Abu Sayyaf" took that fateful stroll in 2011, at the very time when the neocons instigated their plans to overthrow the government of Syria. I've already cited this story from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which opens with these words:
Yesterday, we had a look at the southern front in Syria and noted its intimate connections to Jordan—both through tribal and cultural ties—and through the involvement of King Abdullah's General Intelligence Directorate, because of Jordan's role in channeling U.S. and Saudi support to the rebels.

Another factor linking Jordan to the war in Syria is the presence of Jordanians, and Palestinians from Jordan, as foreign fighters in the Syrian jihadi factions. The Jordanian preacher Mohammed al-Shalabi, better known as Abu Sayyaf, recently claimed that there are a thousand Jordanians fighting in Syria.
In recent times, we've seen a flurry of articles about Jordan's recent anti-ISIS actions, particularly after ISIS militants burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot named Muath al-Kaseasbeh. (See, for example, this hilarious piece of right-wing agit-prop, which is countered here.)

Yes, the Jordanian government is clearly pissed off at ISIS -- now. And for good reason: The jihadis have been stirring up trouble throughout the country. The Islamic State knows how to work social networks like Facebook, and their messages tend to get a lot of "likes" from the Jordanian populace.

But the situation was quite different just a few years ago. Do you recall this Reuters story from 2013, which derived from an investigative piece in Der Spiegel?
Americans are training Syrian anti-government fighters in Jordan, the German weekly Der Spiegel said on Sunday, quoting what it said were participants and organizers.
Here's a telling bit:
"The Jordanian intelligence services want to prevent Salafists (radical Islamists) crossing from their own country into Syria and then returning later to stir up trouble in Jordan itself," one of the organizers told the paper.
That's why the Jordanians told the Americans that only members of the Free Syrian Army could receive training in their country. Surprise: Quite a few of these FSA fighters later joined ISIS.

As we have seen in previous posts, the FSA is a bad joke. The boundaries separating the FSA from ISIS and the Nusra front (a.k.a. al Qaeda) are much more amorphous than our mainstream media would have you believe. FSA warriors fight alongside the jihadis, and have given arms to the jihadis. The FSA captured David Haines and handed him over to ISIS for execution. The FSA, ISIS and Nusra are three interwoven threads in the same garment.

Think about it: If Assad falls, who will take power in Damascus? Not anyone who favors democracy and liberty and religious tolerance. The jihadis will assume full control. That is an incontestable fact. We've even seen a smattering of propaganda pieces written to prepare us for the day when ISIS rules all of Syria.

So who is kidding whom? When Jordan helped us train those fighters, they did so as part of a larger plan to make the Islamic State a reality.

I believe that the Jordanians released Mohammed al-Shalabi in 2011 as part of the neocon plan to oust Assad. I doubt that anyone foresaw that the maniac battalions might turn on Iraq and Jordan itself.

The Jordanians did not understand what they were getting into when they signed onto little scheme -- a scheme which was no doubt concocted in (or at least approved by) Washington. Given the spread of insurrectionist sentiment throughout his country, King Abdullah II must be feeling rather miffed right now.

The people who came up with this plan were very foolish. If you play with fire, expect to get burned. If you whip up an army of religious fanatics, don't be surprised when the maniacs slip out of their tethers.

The neocons gave us "Abu Sayyaf" and now the neocons taketh away. Blessed be the name of the neocons.
Sloppy translation. "Abu" means "Father (of)" in Arabic. It's a cognate of the Hebrew "Av" (as in "Avraham"). The name doesn't mean "swordbearer", it means "father of the swordbearer".
You're right, Prop. I've updated the story to reflect this.
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