Exclusive: President Obama, who once called the idea of “moderate” Syrian rebels a “fantasy,” has maintained the fiction to conceal the fact that many “moderates” are fighting alongside Al Qaeda’s jihadists, an inconvenient truth that is complicating an end to Syria’s civil war, explains Gareth Porter.
By Gareth Porter
Secretary of State John Kerry insisted at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that the agreement with Russia on a temporary halt in the war in Syria can only be carried out if Russia stops its airstrikes against what Kerry is now calling “legitimate opposition groups.”
But what Kerry did not say is that the ceasefire agreement would not apply to operations against Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, the Nusra Front, which both the United States and Russia have recognized as a terrorist organization. That fact is crucial to understand why the Obama administration’s reference to “legitimate opposition groups” is a deception intended to mislead public opinion.
The Russian airstrikes in question are aimed at cutting off Aleppo city, which is now the primary center of Nusra’s power in Syria, from the Turkish border. To succeed in that aim, Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces are attacking rebel troops deployed in towns all along the routes from Aleppo to the border.Those rebels include units belonging to Nusra, their close ally Ahrar al-Sham, and other armed opposition groups some of whom have gotten weapons from the CIA in the past.
Kerry’s language suggests that those other “legitimate opposition groups” are not part of Nusra’s military structure but are separate from it both organizationally and physically. But in fact, there is no such separation in either of the crucial provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it.
This reality even slips into mainstream U.S. news accounts on occasion, such as Anne Barnard’s New York Times article last Saturday about the proposed Syrian cease-fire in which she reported, “With the proviso that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, can still be bombed, Russia puts the United States in a difficult position; the insurgent groups it supports cooperate in some places with the well-armed, well-financed Nusra in what they say is a tactical alliance of necessity against government forces.”
At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the “Syrian Revolutionaries Front” (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.
However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra’s command to capture the base.
And as one of the SRF fighters who participated in the operation, Abu Kumayt, recalled to The New York Times, after the victory only Nusra and its very close ally Ahrar al-Sham were allowed to enter the base. Nusra had allowed the groups supported by the United States to maintain the appearance of independence from Nusra, according to Abu Kumyt, in order to induce the United States to continue the supply of U.S. weapons.
In other words, Nusra was playing Washington, exploiting the Obama administration’s desire to have its own Syrian Army as an instrument for influencing the course of the war. The administration was evidently a willing dupe.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who had been supporting an aggressive program of arming opposition brigades that had been approved by the CIA, told a January 2015 seminar in Washington, “For a long time we have looked the other way while the Nusra Front and armed groups on the ground, some of which are getting help from us, have coordinated in military operations against the regime.”
Reflecting the views of some well-placed administration officials, he added, “I think the days of us looking the other way are finished.” But instead of breaking with the deception that the CIA’s hand-picked clients were independent of Nusra, the Obama administration continued to cling to it.
Nusra and its allies were poised to strike the biggest blow against the Assad regime up to the time the capture of Idlib province. Although some U.S.-supported groups participated in the campaign in March and April 2015, the “operations room” planning the campaign was run by Al Qaeda and its close ally Ahrar al Sham.
And before the campaign was launched, Nusra had forced another U.S.-supported group, Harakat Hazm, to disband and took all of its TOW anti-tank missiles.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were financing the “Army of Conquest,” commanded by Nusra, and were lobbying the administration to support it. U.S. strategy on Syria was then shifting toward a tacit reliance on the jihadists to achieve the U.S. objective of putting sufficient pressure on the Assad regime to force some concessions on Damascus.
But the idea that an independent “moderate” armed opposition still existed and that the United States was basing its policy on those “moderates” was necessary to provide a political fig leaf for the covert and indirect U.S. reliance on Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise’s military success.
When the fall of Idlib led to the Russian intervention last September, the U.S. immediately resorted to its propaganda line about Russian targeting of the “moderate” armed opposition. It had become a necessary shield for the United States to continue playing a political-diplomatic game in Syria.
As the current Russian-Syrian-Iranian offensive between Aleppo and the Turkish border unfolds, the Obama administration’s stance has been contradicted by fresh evidence of the subordination of non-jihadist forces to the Nusra Front. In late January, Nusra consolidated its role as the primary opposition military force in the eastern part of Aleppo City by sending a huge convoy of 200 vehicles loaded with fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London.
BBC reported that “thousands of troops” had just arrived in Aleppo for the coming battle. Ahrar al-Sham confirmed on Feb. 2 that its ally, the Nusra Front, had deployed a large convoy of “reinforcements” to Aleppo. The pro-Assad Beirut daily As-Safir reported that the convoys also included artillery, tanks and armored vehicles, and that Nusra had taken over a number of buildings to serve as its headquarters and offices.
How Al Qaeda Controls
An assessment published on Saturday by the Institute for the Study of War, which has long advocated more U.S. military assistance to Syrian anti-Assad groups, provides further insights into the Nusra Front’s system of control over U.S.-supported groups. One way the jihadist organization maintains that control, according to the study, is Ahrar al Sham’s control of the Bab al Hawa border crossing with Turkey, which gives Nusra and Ahrar power over the distribution of supplies from Turkey into Aleppo City and surrounding areas.
ISW points out that another instrument of control is the use of “military operations rooms” in which Nusra and Ahrar al Sham play the dominant role while allocating resources and military roles to lesser military units.
Although the Nusra Front is not listed as part of the “Army of Aleppo” formally announced to combat the Russian offensive, it is hardly credible that it does not hold the primary positions in the operations room for the Aleppo campaign, given the large infusion of Nusra troops into the theater from Idlib and its history in other such operations rooms in the Idlib and Aleppo regions.
Yet another facet of Nusra’s power in Aleppo is its control over the main water and power plants in the opposition-controlled districts of the city. But the ultimate source of Nusra’s power over U.S.-supported groups is the threat to attack them as agents of the United States and take over their assets. Al Qaeda’s franchise “successfully destroyed two U.S.-backed groups in Northern Syria in 2014 and early 2015,” ISW recalls, and initiated a campaign last October against one of the remaining U.S.-supported groups, Nour al Din al Zenki.
The official U.S. posture on the current offensive in the Aleppo theater and the proposed ceasefire obscures the fact that a successful Russian-Syrian operation would make it impossible for the external states, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to resupply the Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham and thus end the military threat to the Syrian government as well as the possibility of Al Qaeda’s seizure of power in Damascus.
Russian-Syrian success offers the most realistic prospect for an end to the bloodletting in Syria and would also reduce the likelihood of an eventual Al Qaeda seizure of power in Syria.
The Obama administration certainly understands that fact and has already privately adjusted its diplomatic strategy to take into account the likelihood that the Nusra Front will now be substantially weakened. But it cannot acknowledge any of that publicly because such a recognition would infuriate many hardliners in Washington who still demand “regime change” in Damascus whatever the risks.
President Obama is under pressure from these domestic critics as well as from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other GCC allies to oppose any gains by the Russians and the Assad regime as a loss for the United States. And Obama administration must continue to hide the reality that it was complicit in a strategy of arming Nusra in part through the mechanism of arming Washington’s “moderate” clients to achieve leverage on the Syrian regime.
Thus the game of diplomacy and deceptions continues.
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
The report by the Institute for the Study of War also stated “… the issue here is that Nusra is completely embedded within the Syrian opposition …”. This is the same opposition that the US wants to install as the next government in Syria.
Yet in 2006 the US provided air cover to Ethiopian troops who invaded Somalia to prevent a moderate Islamist force taking control because they supposedly had an al-Qaeda extremist among their number. This allowed al-Shabaab to take over from the moderates and they are still creating mayhem throughout the region to this day.
Also, couple of years ago the US was days away from an all-out attack on Syria after it “crossed red lines” by purportedly using sarin. That use of sarin by the Assad regime has been virtually ruled out and that leaves the opposition as the perpetrators.
Then in October last year OPCW confirmed that Daesh has used mustard gas. With their latest report it has now been used in both Syria and Iraq yet this hasn’t crossed US red lines.
Is it any wonder that the US is known as a hypocrite when ‘red lines’ exist for Assad but not for Daesh or the opposition?
“In other words, Nusra was playing Washington, exploiting the Obama administrationâ€™s desire to have its own Syrian Army as an instrument for influencing the course of the war. The administration was evidently a willing dupe.”
As if Washington doesn’t know what it’s doing! As if they don’t have plans in place since Bush and since Eisenhower!!!
There are dupes around, but the fucking CIA isn’t one of them. They commit conspiracies and get away with them because even when caught red handed, even when a quarter of a million people lay dead, people make excuses for the US regime like this “mistakes were made” crap.
Sorry, the only one being duped here is you.
Here is what Obama admits to right on the white house website, and yet I have seen it cited nowhere, except in my own piece:
â€œPresident Obama spoke by phone today from California with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, at the Prime Ministerâ€™s request, about developments in Syria and Egypt. The President and Prime Minister discussed the danger of foreign extremists in Syria and agreed on the importance of supporting a unified and inclusive Syrian opposition.”
Why ISIS Exists: The Double Game
Impeach and apply the law. Material support to terrorists is a crime. There are many at the top of this government (and the previous one too) who support terrorism while pretending to fight it.
KPFA audio recording of Robert Perry on Syria and Russia and moreâ€¦
Please share the link on social media to inform others about this critical issue.
Thank you, Robert Parry. Please do more audio and video interviews and commentary.
It was great to hear Robert Parry interviewed on Dennis J. Bernstein’s “Flashpoints” (KPFA 94.1 FM), recounting much of this column. Listen to kpfa.org archives for 2//16/16.
“THE PERPETRATOR OF WRONG NEVER FORGIVES HIS VICTIMS”
—Cherokee Chief John Ross, early 19th century USA
“To be a man meant to participate, separated from
the actual experience, in a genocide.”
—Historian Michael Paul Rogin, in FATHERS AND CHILDREN…on “Indian
Removal”, p, 248
Events in history are always unique but have much to teach us all.
Joe Lauria’s perceptive article “Obama’s Moderate Syrian Deception”
(above) provides many insights. The proverbial unity called “Americans”
in public discourse has been manipulated into failure to perceive
what is going on in Syria. President Obama’s press conference
responses on the subject of Syria on 2/16/2016 indicate clearly
his consistent and dogged belief in the myths he has been
taught and which he has eagerly taught others.
And what, Mr. President, is “political transition”? Does he
expect a soveerign nation to abdicate its power to a
terrorist group (“the so-called “rebels”) as a precondition?
Would he do likewise?
(Note: We refused in a number wars in the past such as the US
In criticism of the bombing of hospitals, not all of the sources
attribute this to Russia for strange and—in public inscrutable—
Mr. Obama has conveniently forgotten the so-called “success”
of American troops in the massacres in Fallujah (Iran) and
similar “successes.” (See Nicolas J S Davies’ “BLOOD ON
OUR HANDS…”). Nor is there the slightest allusion to Israeli
crimes against humanity. Of course not, it is an election
year in the US.
Mike Whitney’s article in Counterpunch dated February 10
clarifies much of this.
—Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
The idea that Russia is not addressing ISIS but rather bombing the “moderate” or “legitimate” opposition was first broached at a John Kerry press conference on October 1. The claim is based on a deliberate reductive misreading of the Russian position, which allows for criticism of Russia (and Putin) without having to discuss the substantive points made at the United Nations regarding international law and the need for a stable central government in Syria to defeat the terrorists. Instead, Russia’s arguments about what has happened and what is the best way forward have been completely ignored, and the dishonest central talking point – they are not bombing ISIS – has been repeated constantly by both politicians and the western media. That this mendacity is effectively, probably knowingly, supporting the terrorist organization which allegedly carried out the 9/11 attacks which produced a massive reordering of our societies to militarism and sweeping surveillance of all communications is astonishing and practically invites a cognitively dissonant worldview.
In December 2015, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter described Incirlik Air Base in NATO-member Turkey, 100 miles from the Syrian border, as “the tip of the spear”.
The US expanded operations at Incirlik in September when the Turkish government lifted its longstanding ban on American use of the facility for combat strike operations. For years, the base has been a center for U.S. intelligence and CIA operations against Turkey.
The number of U.S. troops at Incirlik has doubled since the summer, while the fleet of U.S. aircraft deployed at the base has grown four fold.
Brigadier Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, consultant to Saudi Minister of Defense Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, confirmed to Saudi-owned news station Al-Arabiya the arrival of Saudi Air Force jets at the Turkish base.
“Our jet fighters and crews have been deployed to the Incirlik Air Base,” he said. “We have deployed them as part of the international coalition led by Washington,” said Assiri. He also claimed the Saudis were ready to enter ground operations in Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have long considered a land operation in Syria.
Speaking in Brussels on February 12, Carter said that after the agreement with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to restart airstrikes he was hoping to “ramp up” their participation in operations. He added that the two countries have had liaisons in Syria.
“Itâ€™s February now, so Iâ€™m a man in a hurry here,” Carter said. “Weâ€™ve worked with their special forces before in other settings. They have very capable special forces, and again, they have a unique political and even moral role to play in this conflict. And that makes them important partners in that regard, as well as the very powerful military capability they both bring.”
So, to put this in very elemental terms, it appears that the U.S. had a plan to create a “no fly zone” in Syria before Russia beat them to the punch.
He who has the “no fly zone” first rules.
That is 70 Miles……a stone throw
“Nusra was playing Washington”?
You can hear the laughter all the way from Langley.
Of course, Kimberly Kagan’s Institute for the Study of War (ISW) can be relied upon to provide “further insights”.
So the truth – that the U.S. is actually working with/supplying arms to Al Qaeda, responsible for 9/11 and the deaths of over 3,000 American citizens – is not something our government wants to become public knowledge.
Well, duh. A few Americans might be a bit pissed off….
Every villain needs a safe house and the Islamic State (IS) is no exception. Luckily for IS, it has two, possibly three waiting for it, all of them courtesy of NATO and in particular the United States.
The war in Syria has been going particularly poor for IS. With Russian air power cutting their supply lines with Turkey and the Syrian Arab Army closing in, it may soon be time for them to shop for a new home.
If the war is going bad for IS, it is going even worse for the supporting powers that have armed and funded them. To understand where IS might go next, one must first fully understand those supporting powers behind them. The premeditated creation of IS and revelations of the identity of their supporters were divulged in a Department of Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo first published in 2012.
“If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
The DIA memo then explains exactly who this “Salafist principality’s” supporters are (and who its true enemies are):
“The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.”
Before the Syrian war, there was Libya…
The DIA memo is important to remember, as is the fact that before the Syrian conflict, there was the Libyan war in which NATO destroyed the ruling government of Muammar Qaddafi and left what one can only described as an intentional and very much premeditated power vacuum in its place. Within that vacuum it would be eventually revealed through the death of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens that from the Libyan city of Benghazi, weapons and militants were being shipped by the US State Department first to Turkey, then onward to invade northern Syria.
And it appears the terrorists have been moving back and forth both ways through this US-sponsored terror pipeline.
IS has since announced an official presence in Libya, and Libya now stands as one of several “safe houses” IS may use when finally pushed from Syria altogether by increasingly successful joint Syrian-Russian military operations.
[…] Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan would be ideal locations to move IS. Libya’s state of intentionally created lawlessness gives the US and its allies a fair degree of plausible deniability as to why they will be unable to “find” and “neutralize” IS.
Finding the Islamic State a Safe House
By Ulson Gunnar
For those who attempt to follow the ins and outs of the CIAâ€™s management of its various patsy organizations inside the realm of presumed Islamic terrorism, it may be useful to trace the transformation of the LIFG-AQIM [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group-Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] from deadly enemy to close ally. This phenomenon is closely linked to the general reversal of the ideological fronts of US imperialism that marks the divide between the Bush-Cheney-neocon administrations and the current Obama-Brzezinski-International Crisis Group regime. The Bush approach was to use the alleged presence of Al Qaeda as a reason for direct military attack. The Obama method is to use Al Qaeda to overthrow independent governments, and then either Balkanize and partition the countries in question, or else use them as kamikaze puppets against larger enemies like Russia, China, or Iran. This approach implies a more or less open fraternization with terrorist groups, which was signaled in a general way in Obamas famous Cairo speech of 2009. The links of the Obama campaign to the terrorist organizations deployed by the CIA against Russia were already a matter of public record three years ago.
But such a reversal of field cannot be improvised overnight; it took several years of preparation. On July 10, 2009, The London Daily Telegraph reported that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had split with Al Qaeda. This was when the United States had decided to de-emphasize the Iraq war, and also to prepare to use the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood and its Sunni Al Qaeda offshoot for the destabilization of the leading Arab states preparatory to turning them against Shiite Iran.
The CIAâ€™s Libya Rebels:
2007 West Point Study Shows Benghazi-Darnah-Tobruk Area was a World Leader in Al Qaeda Suicide Bomber Recruitment
By Webster G. Tarpley
Upon reading the increasingly desperate headlines pumped out by the Western media as Western-backed terrorist forces begin to fold under an effective joint Syrian-Russian offensive to take the country back, readers will notice that though the term â€œmoderate rebelsâ€ or â€œmoderate oppositionâ€ is used often, the Western media is seemingly incapable of naming a single faction or leader among them.
The reason for this is because there are no moderates and there never were. Since 2007, the US has conspired to arm and fund extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda to overthrow the government of Syria and destabilize Iranian influence across the entire Middle East.
Exposed in Seymour Hershâ€™s 2007 article, â€œThe Redirection Is the Administrationâ€™s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,â€ it stated explicitly that:
â€œThe 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.â€
The â€œcatastropheâ€ the Western media constantly cites in its increasingly hysterical headlines is the predictable manifestation of not Syrian and Russian security operations ongoing in Syria today, but of the conspiracy described by Hersh in 2007 that has indisputably been put into play, starting in 2011 under the guise of the so-called â€œArab Spring.â€
When the West does attempt to give names and faces to these so-called â€œmoderates,â€ it is a simple matter to trace them directly back to Al Qaeda.
In Syria, If You Canâ€™t Find Moderates, Dress Up Some Extremists
By Tony Cartalucci
Obamaâ€™s “moderate” Libyan deception preceded Obamaâ€™s “moderate” Syrian deception.
In both operations, Qatari financiers have kept the money flowing with impunity.
Turkey and Qatar have been supporting similar extremist and even terrorist groups used extensively in the fight against the Syrian government. Both states have also been deeply involved in the political struggle for influence in Egypt, by sponsoring the Muslim Brotherhood organization and former President Mohamed Morsi, along with promoting Wahhabi ideas not only in North Africa and the Middle East, but also in Central Asia.
It should be noted that Qatar and Turkey are the original creators of ISIL, and they have been investing heavily in the strengthening of this terrorist organization ever since. While Qatar provided a certain share of its financial wealth with ISIL, Turkey has spent significant time on the recruitment and training of ISIL militants for them to then wreak havoc in Iraq and Syria. Turkey did its best to provide its terrorist creation with sophisticated smuggling networks that allowed ISIL to ship stolen oil and drugs across the globe. The Islamic State repaid their masters with a constant stream of Muslim refugees heading to Europe in a bid to save their lives. After all, Turkey is the first to benefit from the flow of migrants that are supposed to conquer a foothold in new lands, planting the seeds for future victories of a new Ottoman Empire.
Bilateral military cooperation between Turkey and Qatar received a significant boost back in December 2014 when the parties signed a military agreement that received a whole new meaning a year later. This secret agreement was expanded during the visits of Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan to Doha last December, when Ankara managed to secure Dohaâ€™s promise to compensate a portion of its losses from the cessation of Russian tourism to Turkey, believed to have caused a whopping 3 billion dollars in economic damage, along with the promise that Qatar will be providing Ankara with gas supplies, should Russia decide to terminate its supplies. In addition, Qatar has agreed to pay all the costs that will be attributed to the construction of Turkeyâ€™s military base on its territory, believed to be as high as 1 billion dollars.
The real question is what is Qatar getting in return? â€“ Although both countries have sought to hide the answer from the general public, it is still fairly obvious.
First of all, Qatar will greatly enhance its military and political independence from its neighbor â€“ Saudi Arabia, which has been repeatedly trying to distance itself from Qatari policies and even condemned Doha for the financial support it has been providing to radical extremists. Moreover, thereâ€™s little doubt that it will untie Dohaâ€™s hands in the business of sponsoring radical movements in the Islamic world, which have been labeled by numerous experts as extremist or even terrorist groups. Qatar will be able to train future members of such groups on its military base in Turkey, as well as using Turkish extremists on its territory for the same purposes, raising new radical hordes for military engagements in Syria or other countries.
What Are the Possible Consequences of Turkey-Qatar Military Cooperation?
By Martin Berger
This is a very interesting article by Alexander Mercouris detailing an article in a British newspaper regarding Russia’s ambassador to the UK revealing the Russians were told by the Western powers that after the US proclaimed a no-fly zone ISIS would capture Damascus –
Imagine that. The United States paving the way for Daesh to overtake Damascus!