Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is the U.S. arming Al Qaeda?

Perhaps those seeking to understand the current situation in Syria should go back to a piece published by Seymour Hersh in 2007. The key quotes may be found here:
The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
The above link will take you not to Hersh's article but to a much more recent piece written by one Tony Cartalucci, whom I've never read previously. He argues that Obama has continued the Bush policy of arming Al Qaeda-related insurgents in Syria.

As proof, he cites this NYT story, headlined "Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.":
The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.
There's much more at the other end of the link. Bottom line: The effort to supply these rebels is massive and ongoing. I'm reminded of the CIA in Laos.

And yet -- most passing strange! -- this story does not mention Al Qaeda or its Syrian offshoot, the Nusra Front. For a fuller picture, we need to turn to an earlier NYT story on the Syrian rebellion -- "Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War":
The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists.
The group is called the Nusra Front. The U.S. wants to square the circle, aiding the Syrian rebels yet officially proclaiming the Nusra Front to be terrorists, jihadis, and Very Bad People.

"Bad" as in bad-ass. The London Telegraph confirms that Nusra pretty much is the rebellion by this point.
The group is well funded – probably through established global jihadist networks – in comparison to moderates. Meanwhile pro-democracy rebel group commanders say money from foreign governments has all but dried up because of fears over radical Islamists.
How can we reconcile this information with the NYT's tale of a massive arms flow to the rebellion? According to the New York Times, the CIA -- often working through fronts like Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- has been funding the rebellion. If the money for the democratic rebels has "dried up," then where did the funds go?

To Nusra, obviously.

And yet the Telegraph would have us believe that the funding comes "through established jihadist networks." Come off it. Who do they think they're fooling? I doubt whether Al Qaeda (on its own) has that kind of network these days. They certainly don't have the kind of money needed to topple a government.  

Let's get back to Cartalucci's piece:
It is now admitted that thousands of tons of weapons have been smuggled into Syria by the US and its regional allies. While the Western media has attempted in the past to feign ignorance as to where Al Qaeda's al-Nusra was getting their weapons from, it is now abundantly clear - al-Nusra's power has expanded across Syria in tandem with the CIA's ever-expanding operations along the nation's borders.
Also see here.

I'm getting a sick feeling about this. In the 1980s, the CIA justified working with jihadis in Afghanistan on the grounds that one must sometimes make deals with devils in order to combat even bigger devils. Yada yada yada. Obviously, that history is repeating itself.

The Afghanistan policy didn't turn out well. The Soviets left, only to be replaced by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Even in the early 1980s, I suspected that we would one day regret forming an alliance with the Islamic fundamentalist "freedom fighters" who would occasionally appear on CSPAN when they came to DC to ask for more aid. Every one of them looked like a potential nightmare. Of course, back then I had to be very careful about voicing my views, because everyone presumed that the great game against the Russians trumped all other concerns.
Not shocking given the old 'strategy of tension,' and the subornation of radical groups, real or manufactured, to further the ends of western strategic and financial interests.

The Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang factions were used by NATO's Operation:Gladio to foment terror and political reactionary results from that terror in elections.

I don't think this is like that, XI. I think Israel wants Assad gone.
A win - win for Obama. He gets rid of a Syrian dictator but at the same time gives us a reason to pour more money into our military to combat this future threat.
I fully agree with you on that. So it's a similar tactic for a different strategic purpose.

It's more similar to the Contra situation, where marauding Somacista gangs were tasked to raise so much hell and kill so many civilians (they never engaged government forces, just 'soft targets' like farmers) as to get the people to depose the Sandinistas out of terror-weariness. And it worked in Nicaragua, eventually.

The propaganda for Syria is that Assad is brutally suppressing genuine domestic dissent. Except the rebel forces are mainly foreign infiltrators at the borders, and any government has the right and obligation to put down foreign-financed and foreign-populated terror forces operating in country.


You should probably read "established jihadist networks" not as "al-Qaeda" but "Saudi Arabia and Pakistan." Isn't that what it has always been?
I didnt think your point was controversial. I thought it was understood that this was a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, and that Saudi is the US actor. Saudi operates through its fundamentalist Sunni Wahhabist groups - some people might call them Al Quaeda. Others might just call them fundamentalist Wahhabi groups. I prefer the latter term. Less loaded.

Of course, this whole proxy war smacks of the usual neocon zionist nexus. Its about preparing the way for war with Iran. Do do that you need to get rid of Irans proxy groups in Lebannon and Syria. Otherwise war with Iran might be costly for Israel.

So if this whole Syrian thing strikes you as familiar there is a reason. What freaks me out is that the neocons who supported the Iraq war must see it as successful. Or as just one act of a the play. The target was always Iran. Iraq was just the route. And just cos they have accidentally strengthened Iran through the Iraq war, they have also weakened it economically.

I will never vote for a politician that supports this policy. So I doubt I will vote again. Both parties in the UK are dominated by neo-cons. They disgust me.

Don't forget the Doha Protocol. When the SNC was formed in Nov 2012 they drew up the Doha Protocol with the assistance of the US and Middle East nations backing the Syrian insurgency. It outlines the policy commitments of any incoming SNC government and is basically a shopping list of benefits to be obtained by foreign backers of the Syrian insurgency.

All Syrian energy and defense contracts with Russia, China and Iran are to be simply torn up and new contracts handed out to Saudi states, Turkey, the EU and the US. All war reconstruction contracts are to be given to the UAE and Qatar, which also gets a gas pipeline access to Europe. Israel is to get a water supply pipeline from Turkey and Syria agrees to break off all relations with Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance movements. Syria will assert its right to sovereignty over the Golan only by political means (and never military means) and any peace agreements will be negotiated and signed under the auspices of the US and Qatar (giving Israel virtual political control over the Golan Heights). Turkey gets some border villages and Syria agrees to expel all members of the Workers Party of Kurdistan, adding its name to a list of terrorist organizations, to hand over those members wanted by Turkey (likely to be tortured, certainly to be imprisoned) and to ban any idea of a Kurdish national movement (Kurds make up 10% of Syria's population).

The key elements of Syria's economic and political alliances are being set, not by the Syrian people, but by foreign nations. The Syrian people have never expressed these desires but it is the price being extracted by the US and the Saudis for Western backing of favoured Syrian rebels. This is what, I suppose, former Sec.State Hillary Clinton would refer to as a "democracy movement" and the "will of the people". It's nothing of the kind. It's a Western takeover.
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