Caliph Closure: ‘He Died Like a Dog’

Trump’s victory-lap movie version buries the embarrassing story of deploying tanks to “protect” Syrian oilfields, writes Pepe Escobar.

By Pepe Escobar
The Asia Times  

“He died like a dog.” President Donald Trump could not have scripted a better one-liner as he got ready for his Obama bin Laden close-up in front of the whole world.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, fake caliph, ISIS/Daesh leader, the most wanted man on the planet, was “brought to justice” under Trump’s watch. The dead dog caliph is now positioned as the ultimate foreign policy winning trophy ahead of 2020 reelection.

The climatic scenes of the inevitable-as-death-and-taxes movie or Netflix series to come are already written. (Trump: I “watched it like a movie.”) Cowardly uber-terrorist cornered in a dead-end tunnel, eight helicopter gunships hovering above, dogs barking in the darkness, three terrified children taken as hostages, coward detonates a suicide vest, tunnel collapses over himself and the children.

A crack forensic team carrying samples of the fake caliph’s DNA apparently does its job in record time. The remains of the self-exploded target — then sealed in plastic bags — confirm it: it’s Baghdadi. In the dead of night, it’s time for the commando unit to go back to Irbil, a 70-minute flight over northeast Syria and northwest Iraq. Cut to Trump’s presser. Mission accomplished. Roll credits.

This all happened at a compound only 300 meters away from the village of Barisha, in Idlib, rural northwest Syria, only 5km from the Syria-Turkish border. The compound is no more:  it was turned to rubble so it would not become a (Syrian) shrine for a renegade Iraqi.

The caliph was already on the run, and arrived at this rural back of beyond only 48 hours before the raid, according to Turkish intelligence. A serious question is what he was doing in northwest Syria, in Idlib — a de facto cauldron like Donbass in 2014 — which the Syrian army and Russian airpower are just waiting for the right moment to extinguish.

>>Please Donate to Consortium News’ Fall Fund Drive<<

There are virtually no ISIS/Daesh jihadis in Idlib, but lots of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, as in al-Qaeda in Syria, known inside the Beltway as “moderate rebels,” including hardcore Turkmen brigades previously weaponized by Turkish intel. The only rational explanation is that the Caliph might have identified this Idlib backwater near Barisha, away from the war zone, as the ideal under-the-radar passport to cross to Turkey.

President Trump and advisers in White House Situation Room watching U.S. Special Operations Forces in Syria on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)

Russians Knew?

The plot thickens when we examine Trump’s long list of “thank yous” for the successful raid. Russia came first, followed by Syria — presumably Syrian Kurds, not Damascus — Turkey and Iraq. In fact, Syrian Kurds were only credited with “certain support,” in Trump’s words. Their commander Mazloum Abdi, though, preferred to extol the raid as a “historic operation” with essential Syrian Kurd intel input.

In Trump’s press conference, expanding somewhat on the thank yous, Russia again came first (“great” collaboration) and Iraq was “excellent”: the Iraqi National Intelligence Service later commented on the break it had gotten, via a Syrian who had smuggled the wives of two of Baghdadi’s brothers, Ahmad and Jumah, to Idlib via Turkey.

There’s no way U.S. Special Forces could have pulled this off without complex, combined Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian Kurd intel. Additionally, President Recep Erdogan accomplishes one more tactical masterpiece, juggling between performing the role of dutiful, major NATO ally while still allowing al-Qaeda remnants their safe haven in Idlib under the watchful eye of the Turkish military.

Significantly, Trump said, about Moscow: “We told them, ‘We’re coming in’ … and they said, ‘Thank you for telling us.’” But, “they did not know the mission.”

They definitely didn’t. In fact, the Russian Defense Ministry, via spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, said it had “no reliable information about US servicemen conducting an operation to ‘yet another’ elimination of the former Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the Turkish-controlled part of the Idlib de-escalation zone.”

And on Trump’s “we told them,” the Russian Defense Ministry was emphatic: “We know nothing about any assistance to the flight of US aircraft to the Idlib de-escalation zone’s airspace in the course of this operation.”

According to ground sources in Syria, a prevalent rumor in Idlib is that the “dead dog” in Barisha could be Abu Mohammad Salama, the leader of Haras al-Din, a minor sub-group of al-Qaeda in Syria. Haras al-Din has not issued any statement about it.

ISIS/Daesh anyway has already named a successor: Abdullah Qardash, aka Hajji Abdullah al-Afari, also Iraqi and also a former Saddam Hussein military officer. There’s a strong possibility that ISIS/Daesh and myriad subgroups and variations of al-Qaeda in Syria will now re-merge, after their split in 2014.

Who Gets the Oil?

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, painted portrait. (thierry ehrmann/Flickr)

There’s no plausible explanation whatsoever for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for years, enjoying the freedom of shuttling back and forth between Syria and Iraq, always evading the formidable surveillance capabilities of the U.S. government.

Well, there’s also no plausible explanation for that famous convoy of 53 brand new, white Toyota Hi-Luxes crossing the desert from Syria to Iraq in 2014 crammed with flag-waving ISIS/Daesh jihadis on their way to capture Mosul, also evading the cornucopia of U.S. satellites covering the Middle East 24/7.

And there’s no way to bury the 2012 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)  leaked memo that explicitly named “the West, Gulf monarchies, and Turkey” as seeking a “Salafist principality” in Syria (opposed, significantly, by Russia, China and Iran – the key poles of Eurasia integration).

That was way before ISIS/Daesh’s irresistible ascension. The DIA memo was unmistakable: “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).

True, the fake caliph has been proclaimed definitely dead at least five times, starting in December 2016. Yet the timing, now, could not be more convenient.

The facts on the ground, after the latest ground-breaking Russia-brokered deal between the Turks and the Syrian Kurds, graphically spell out the slow but sure restoration of Syria’s territorial integrity. There will be no balkanization of Syria. The last remaining pocket to be cleared of jihadis is Irbil.

And then, there’s the oil question. The “died as a dog” movie literally buries — at least for now — an extremely embarrassing story: the Pentagon deploying tanks to “protect” Syrian oilfields. This is as illegal, by any possible interpretation of international law, as is, for that matter, the very presence in Syria of U.S. troops, which were never invited by the government in Damascus.

Persian Gulf traders told me that before 2011, Syria was producing 387,000 barrels of oil a day and selling 140,000 — the equivalent of 25.1 percent of Damascus’s income. Nowadays, the Omar, al-Shadaddi and Suwayda fields, in eastern Syria, would not be producing more than 60,000 barrels a day. Still, that’s essential for Damascus and for “the Syrian people” so admired within the Beltway — the legitimate owners of the oil.

The mostly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) did in fact take military control of Deir er-Zor when they were fighting ISIS/Daesh. Yet the majority of the local population is Sunni Arab. They will never tolerate any hint of a longtime Syrian Kurd domination — much less in tandem with a U.S. occupation.

Sooner or later the Syrian army will get there, with Russian air power support. The Deep State might, but Trump, in an electoral year, would never risk a hot war over a few, illegally occupied oilfields.

In the end, the “died as a dog” movie can be interpreted as a victory lap, and the closure of a historical arc languishing since 2011. When he “abandoned” the Syrian Demoratic Forces Kurds, Trump effectively buried the Rojava question — as in an independent Syrian Kurdistan.

Russia is in charge in Syria — on all fronts. Turkey got rid of its “terrorism” paranoia — always having to demonize the Syrian Kurd PYD and its armed wing YPG as a spin-off of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey — and this may help to settle the Syrian refugee question. Syria is on the way to recover all its territory.

The “died as a dog” movie can also be interpreted as the liquidation of a formerly useful asset that was a valued component of the gift that keeps on giving, the never-ending Global War on Terror. Other scarecrows, and other movies, await.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

This article is from The Asia Times.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive or rude language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed. If your comment does not immediately appear, please be patient as it is manually reviewed. For security reasons, please refrain from inserting links in your comments.

>>Please Donate to Consortium News’ Fall Fund Drive<<


12 comments for “Caliph Closure: ‘He Died Like a Dog’

  1. Skip Scott
    November 1, 2019 at 08:41

    I presume the re-establishment of Syria’s territorial integrity does not include the Golan Heights. That would be a “bridge to far” for the Israelis.

    October 29, 2019 at 16:48

    ‘He Died Like a Dog’

    Surely, the high-water mark in presidential discourse.

    God, America, you really do have a piece of sleaze in the Oval Office.

  3. Anon
    October 29, 2019 at 11:00

    Great article. I was extremely suspicious because of the timing and I don’t believe anything the GOVT or MSM says. It looks exactly like the Obama pre-election stunt. How exactly did he know he “died like a dog and coward?” I think it takes some balls to blow yourself up!

    This country gets crazier and sicker by the week. (And dumber).

  4. AnneR
    October 29, 2019 at 08:42

    Apparently – the Deep State has, *of course,* classified the “photographs and video” of Al Baghdadi’s body/its disposal. Just as with bin Laden’s…one doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that western governments and their secret agencies lie all the bloody time. Indeed, the Pomposity joked about it, specifically the CIA but it applies equally well to the whole construct.

    Furthermore, all that twaddle about testing Al Baghdadi’s DNA (never mind the speed of appraisal) – what could be learnt from such a sample? Aside from his being male, of a potential (but definitely not certain) ethnic background, and being prone or not to this or that disease, affliction?

    Without his parents DNA, or his DNA being on record (and reliably so), there is NO WAY to assert that the putative DNA, supposedly taken from the blown up remains, can identify those remains as having once been Al Baghdadi. A comparison with the DNA of his putative children (also apparently blown up with him) would only demonstrate whether or not they were indeed the progeny of the adult male remains alongside theirs, not identify the adult male’s DNA as belonging to this or that specific person.

    More smoke and mirrors.

    • David Smith
      November 1, 2019 at 18:22

      Al Bahgdadi was arrested by US forces in Iraq in 2004, and held for 11 months. It is a certainty the US has his DNA sample.

  5. michael
    October 29, 2019 at 06:08

    It is amazing how a no experience, idiot carnival barker has become a consummate politician, copying Obama’s most successful Mid East action, the (supposed) assassination of unarmed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Between the CIA, which seemingly funds anyone with a gun in the Mid East and KNOWS they are in control of what happens there, our Congress, which essentially shut down with the Patriot Act in 1995 (Joe Biden claims he wrote it then), and Trump’s sudden interest in government corruption, which dwarfs anything he could ever hope for in the hotel business, America has clearly reached its potential. A third world country in a death spiral since at least Reagan, it would be surreal entertainment EXCEPT for all the lives destroyed.

  6. KiwiAntz
    October 29, 2019 at 05:16

    Trump? What a complete joke this turkey is? He killed his own Employee, the murderer Baghdadi & put out of business the Deathcult organisation called ISIS, a American CIA creation used to cause havoc in Syria & elsewhere by letting them loose as its hired “Dogs of War”?

    Why does the US never obey any actual International Laws or abide by any rules?? This Nation is & acts like a Banana Republic by foisting Terrorists on other Nations for no good reason but to create chaos! And it’s disgusting imbecile of a POTUS, is a despicable excuse for a human being, by breaking International Laws & stealing Syria’s Oil! America has now gone beyond the point of no return & is irredeemable in my estimation? Is it any wonder why this Nation is hated & disrespected the World over! Trump’s stupid ignorance has the World viewing America & Americans as a laughingstock, so blatantly obvious is its thieving & stealing that it doesn’t even pretend anymore to cover up its criminal actions?

    It’s actually a International War Crime, under the Geneva Convention to steal & appropriate another Nations Oil & Resources! America has surpassed Hitlers Germany as the new Fascist Country, of our age & its Political class is the new third Reich with its Intelligence agencies, now, the new Gestapo! That’s how Criminally lawless & repulsive the US of A has become, a International pariah, a Mafia Nation of theft & plunder masquerading as a Democracy & a failed one at that! The sooner this dying, bankrupt Empire collapses in on itself the better off this World will be! And it’s Crime Lord, Crooked President needs to be impeached & hauled off in a orange jumpsuit to match his orange toupee & thrown in jail! America also needs to be condemned & hauled before the Hague for War Crimes & for committing Mass murder & looting crimes, just like the Nazi’s & it’s Leaders paying the same price those Criminal Nazi’s paid, death by hanging for crimes against Humanity!

  7. Deniz
    October 28, 2019 at 22:19

    Maybe we should send flowers to his bosses in London and Langley.

  8. Antonio Costa
    October 28, 2019 at 22:11

    “…like a dog!”. Kafka’s The Trial

  9. Drew Hunkins
    October 28, 2019 at 21:21

    So when do Iraqi citizens get to come over here to extrajudicially murder Cheney, Bush, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld and Abrams?

    When do Libyans get to engage in their crusade for justice by coming over here to extrajudicially kill Killary, Obama and Biden?

    When do the Palestinians get to finally overrun the Gaza concentration camp fence and enter Israel (the racist sadistic paranoid hegemonic artificial state) to execute Netanyahu sans any semblance of elementary due process?

    • b.grand
      October 28, 2019 at 23:46

      If there were any justice….. Great comment. They make so much of ISIS brutality. How about the slow death inflicted by Albright, et al. The forever birth defects of depleted uranium. Burned alive in a cage, or in your apartment by a smart bomb… how much difference?

  10. Leonardo
    October 28, 2019 at 19:43

    Is it just me or the guillibility of the press is really astonishing these days?

    Erbil is about 400 miles distant from Barisha. And yet the Guardian reports that 8 US Chinooks (max speed 196 miles per hour, 450 miles range) flew from Erbil to Barisha in 70 minutes. It would have taken more than 2 hours even at max speed and there would be no way to make the return trip without refuelling.
    Those figures do not add up.

    On the other hand, Incirlik is just 90 miles away from the target. On Colonel Patrick Lang’s blog knowledgeble people also suggested that the helicopters could have taken off from platforms in the Eastern Mediterranean (which would explain why the US had to warn the Russians of a planned military operation).

    Anyay, the point is that the Guardian and most news outlets appear to have not bothered checking the plausibility of their own accounts.

Comments are closed.