​The “Israel backs Jabhat al-Nusra” fairy-tale and its deadly consequences

By Michael Karadjis

​The pro-Assad Druze lynch-mob who pulled two wounded Syrians from an ambulance in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and then proceeded to bash one and kill the other while the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) looked on, justified their action with the claim that Israel is treating wounded fighters from the sectarian-jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra.

As a Nusra unit had several weeks earlier killed 23 Druze in northern Idlib province, they and their supporters claimed to be concerned with the fate of the larger Druze communities in southern Syria, where a variety of Syrian rebel formations are in control, mostly the anti-sectarian Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but also Nusra. Though all revolutionary organisations in Syria had vigorously condemned the massacre, and even Nusra had officially condemned it and removed the commander (see my analysis at  https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/revolutionary-forces-throughout-syria-condemn-nusras-massacre-of-druze-villagers/), understandably the Druze minority remain concerned and vigilant.

In reality, the actions of the killers chime in well with current propaganda among the Likud-led regime in Israel, which is threatening to intervene to “protect” the Druze in south Syria, even “mulling the creation of a safe zone” – ie, a new Zionist land grab – on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in order to aid Druze refugees.” (http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-weighs-safe-zone-for-syrias-embattled-druze/). Moreover, Syrian Druze condemned the murder as incompatible with Druze (http://syrianobserver.com/EN/News/29400/Druze_Community_Condemn_Golan_Heights_Ambulance_Attack); and really, imagine the Zionist army allowing a Palestinian mob to attack one of its ambulances and drag out patients and murder them: they would have slaughtered Palestinians before they got anywhere near it.

To top it off, it turned out that the murdered patient was FSA fighter Munthir Khalil from the Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and Golan (https://www.facebook.com/jwlanijana/photos/a.1504648763090664.1073741826.1504646789757528/1659290030959869/?type=1&theater), another name for the Military Council of Quneitra and Golan, from which Brigadier General Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, last year appointed Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Command of the FSA, comes from. This FSA brigade is also a member organisation of the FSA’s Southern Front which of course had vigorously denounced Nusra’s Druze massacre and offered protection; moreover, the Southern Front several months ago issued a declaration that there would be no further cooperation with Nusra at any level.


Who is promoting the fairy-tale?

Thus the “Israel supports Nusra” discourse had simply led to the murder of a member of the FSA. But where does this theory come from? A number of writers in recent months have come up with the proposition that Israel is in some kind of alliance with Nusra in the southern Syrian region bordering the Israeli-stolen Golan Heights.

“Why has Israel embraced al-Qaida’s branch in Syria?” asks Rania Khalek in the Electronic Intifada (​https://electronicintifada.net/content/why-has-israel-embraced-al-qaidas-branch-syria/14619). “In the Golan, Israel has cultivated an alliance with Islamist forces it falsely claims to detest: the al-Nusra Front,” claims Richard Silverstein (http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2015/06/25/israels-dangerous-game-with-syrian-islamists/). “Why is the media ignoring Israel’s alliance with al-Qaeda?” asks Asa Winstanely (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/18855-why-is-the-media-ignoring-israels-alliance-with-al-qaeda).

According to Silverstein, evidence for this is that “It has built a camp to house fighters and their families on Israeli-held territory.  It conducts regular meetings with Islamist commanders and provides military and other critical supplies to them,” and that “all of this is documented in written UN reports and images captured by journalists and activists on the armistice line (between Syria and Israel).”

Khalek also refers to these UN reports:

“The most egregious example of such aid in recent times has been Israel’s support for Jabhat al-Nusraal-Qaida’s franchise in Syria, as witnessed by UN peacekeeping forces stationed in the occupied Golan Heights.”

Khalek, Silverstein and Winstanely would appear to be on good grounds for making these allegations, since the evidence is to be found in the reports of the UN forces stationed on the ceasefire line.

Except that you will not find such “evidence” in the relevant UN reports, as we will see.


The ‘evidence’ of Israel treating wounded Syrians

Before that, however, let’s note the other major piece of evidence for Israel’s “alliance with al-Qaida.” According to these writers, Israel has been providing medical treatment in Israeli hospitals for Nusra fighters from across the border.

Khalek explains:

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel has been treating wounded al-Nusra fighters and then sending them back into the Golan to battle Hizballah and the Syrian army.”

That would seem powerful evidence. But the only problem is that the source for this “information” – the Wall Street Journal – didn’t say this. It merely reported that:

“An Israeli military official acknowledged that most of the rebels on the other side of the fence belong to Nusra but said that Israel offered medical help to anyone in need, without checking their identity. “We don’t ask who they are, we don’t do any screening…Once the treatment is done, we take them back to the border and they go on their way,” he said.”

Now, one may decide to complain about the medical help to people from across the border (whether fighters or civilians) if that is your view, but there is a big difference between not checking who they are and the assertion that they are Nusra fighters, let alone Khalek’s pure invention of the last part of the sentence about sending them back to fight Hezbollah..

Khalek also referred to the Vice News video that showed wounded Syrian fighters in an Israeli hospital, and says that “the narrator acknowledges that the fighters could be affiliated with al-Nusra.” But if the entire edifice of “Israel aiding al-Qaida” is based on the fact that someone says that, among the fighters, some “could be” Nusra because they don’t check, then that’s pretty shabby “evidence.” The doctors insist most patients are civilians, and among the fighters none are Nusra fighters. The narrator notes a patient with long hair who has his face turned because he didn’t want to be seen in an Israeli hospital, and suggests these two things suggest he may be from Nusra. The idea that non-jihadist fighters might also not have time for a haircut, and that many of them may be just as embarrassed to be shown in an Israeli hospital, is apparently lost on the narrator.

As for civilians, since the source for most of the hysteria appears to be one The Wall Street Journal article, this article notes that “a third of the 1,500 treated by Israel have been women and children,” that is, some 500 people; the EI article by Khalek quoting this adds “the rest have been fighters.” As I have no subscription to the WSJ article, I am unable to verify this, but the implication here seems to be that all those who are not “women and children” are by definition fighters (a not uncommon recipe for massive “collective punishment” of men by oppressive regimes and genocidaires over time). On the other hand, if we assume that male civilians also get wounded just as often as women and children, then the majority may well be civilians.

For some two years now, Israel has been bringing these wounded Syrian fighters and civilians to Israeli hospitals and dropping them back when they’re done.  It is well to point to the hypocrisy of the Zionist state, that daily massacres Palestinians and even attacks their hospitals and ambulances and murders medical staff and patients, showing a nice face by providing this medical aid to Syrians who are the victims of similar Zionist-style butchery by the Baathist gang occupying Damascus.

It would be a similar level of hypocrisy to the Syrian regime treating wounded Palestinians in Syrian hospitals.

Presumably we could also denounce Israeli hypocrisy in oppressing, dispossessing and killing Palestinians but then treating wounded Palestinian civilians and liberation fighters in its hospitals (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/feb/8/20070208-115659-5410r/?page=all; http://www.timesofisrael.com/16-year-old-gaza-terrorist-treated-in-israeli-hospital/; http://www.israel21c.org/health/israeli-hospital-treated-both-sides-during-jenin-battle/). Personally, however, I will not be engaging in any reverse hypocrisy or outright slime by writing an article headed “”Israel’s Dangerous game With Palestinian Terrorists.”

Israel’s interest in the region

But denunciations of hypocrisy, while all very valid, rarely get us very far. Israel is doing this for purposes either of propaganda, or to attempt to influence, or co-opt, in whatever limited way it can, some of the wounded fighters or civilians.

Countless Israeli leaders, military officials, intelligence chiefs, strategists and others have declared their preference for the survival of the Assad regime over any of the alternatives on offer throughout this conflict, for good reason: the Assad regime fired not a single shot across the border of the Israeli-stolen Golan for 40 years, nor even organised symbolic actions near the border, nor even conducted any serious diplomatic offensive, and meanwhile regularly slaughtered Palestinian civilians and resistance fighters. However, the reality now is that the regime no longer controls Syria; in fact it is falling to bits.

None of the groups fighting the Assad regime, whether the secular nationalist Free Syrian Army, the various Islamist groups or Jabhat al-Nusra have ever shown any inkling whatsoever of wanting to have anything to do with Israel, and all of them insist the Golan is Syrian. In the circumstances of its reliable Assadist border-guard collapsing, the Zionist regime aims to try to influence some of the local fighters in the “border” region as best it can via providing medical support. After all, some variation of them will be in control there whether Israel likes it or not.

There is of course no indication thus far that this influencing will work; and meanwhile, someone with their arm blown off is hardly going to say no to a hospital bed.

But to suggest that this medical aid, and the tiny amounts of aid alleged by these writers to be seen in the UN reports, is the reason that rebels are holding the regime at bay in these southern regions, is entirely fanciful and suggests a complete lack of understanding of the realities on the ground. The UN reports show that the Syrian airforce bombs the region massively and continually; there is nothing in the UN reports suggesting any transfer of arms to the rebels, let alone the kinds of arms that would be necessary to fight such a regime.

Indeed, if it wanted to, Israel could tell the Assad regime that by bombing the region along the armistice line, it is breaking the terms of the 1974 UN ceasefire, but has never done so; indeed it could use this as an excuse to down the warplanes; failing that, if it actually wanted to aid the rebels’ fight it could supply them anti-aircraft missiles. Of course, there is nothing in the reports that suggest it has supplied even a single bullet, let alone anything useful.


So what then do these famous UN Observer Force reports say?

According to the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for the period from 11 March to 28 May 2014 (http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/401, “crossing of the ceasefire line (ie, into the area of separation) by civilians, primarily shepherds, was observed on an almost daily basis,” including “persons digging out and removing landmines” (the whole area is heavily mined). “On 19 and 22 May, IDF fired warning shots towards shepherds as they were crossing the ceasefire line.” “Frequent interacting” between “armed members of the opposition” and the IDF “across the ceasefire line” was reported, and it is clear in the report that this “interacting” was entirely concerned with transferring wounded patients to the IDF or the IDF returning treated patients.  On one such occasion, the UN observed IDF “handing over two boxes to armed members of the opposition.”

From all the reports I read, this is the one and only time anything was handed over by the IDF to the armed oppositionists, and it was the sum total of two boxes, in the context of swapping wounded and treated patients (perhaps a patient’s clothes?). There is certainly no suggestion they were Nusra, in any case.

The next report (May 29-September 3) contains the usual list of shepherd crossings and swapping patients and nothing much else of interest.

According to the following report (September 4 to November 19 2014, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/859), aside from the shepherd crossings:

“On 27 October, position 80 observed two IDF soldiers east of the technical fence returning from the direction of the Alpha line towards the technical fence. UNDOF observed IDF opening the technical fence gate and letting two individuals pass from the Bravo to the Alpha side. Following the evacuation of UNDOF personnel from position 85 on 28 August, UNDOF sporadically observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF across the ceasefire line in the vicinity of United Nations position 85.”

So we now have two individuals (apparently unarmed) pass through the separation fence. Khalek writes “unlike most fighters seen entering the Israeli side, these individuals were not wounded.” It is unknown why Khalek decided they were “fighters” – the UN report does not say this. And we again have sporadic “interactions” between some “armed members of the opposition” and IDF soldiers “across the ceasefire line,” the only difference with the other reports being that in this case it does not specify that this interaction involved transfer of wounded; discussing it perhaps?

According to the next report, from November 2014 to 3 March 2015 (http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2015_177.pdf), there were a few crossings of the ceasefire line by “armed individuals” who “approached the technical fence and at times interacted with IDF across the ceasefire line” and “wounded individuals were handed over from the Bravo side to the Alpha side.” As in all such cases, there is no indication what, if any, faction they might be from.

According to Khalek, this report “notes that UN forces witnessed Israeli soldiers delivering material aid to armed Syrian opposition groups.” However, the report itself, indeed as she quotes it, says:

“During the evening of 20 January, in the area north of observation post 54, UNDOF observed two trucks crossing from the Bravo side to the Alpha side, where they were received by IDF personnel. The trucks were loaded with sacks before returning to the Bravo side.”

The report says “two trucks,” with no suggestion they are military trucks. Khalek says “armed opposition groups.” This is entirely her own invention. Silverstein is even more creative: “The UN observed the IDF unloading supplies in boxes at the armistice fence, which were then picked up by Islamist fighters.” Wow.

The report continues that “on at least four occasions in February, United Nations personnel at observation post 54 saw vehicles, including small trucks, crossing the ceasefire line from the Bravo side and approaching the technical fence.” Again, no indication that these “small trucks” were military vehicles or that they were being driven by fighters, and in these cases, no evidence of anything loaded onto them.

The report does mention that on one occasion, “several vehicles, including some with anti-aircraft guns mounted on the back, were seen parked next to the technical fence. Owing to the terrain, UNDOF could not observe whether interaction between individuals on the Alpha and the Bravo sides took place.” Thus on the only mention of a military vehicle there is no evidence of interaction. It would be interesting to know something about the “anti-aircraft guns.” As with the vast majority of rebel arms, almost certainly they have been captured from regime forces; there is no indication here that they came from across the border. If Israel had supplied them, one might expect them to be of a quality that might actually be useful, ie, actually shoot down warplanes; something which has never happened in the region.

Next, the report tells of a massive regime operation in February, including large-scale airstrikes, as a result of which “UNDOF observed approximately 300 civilians in total, mostly women and children, from the areas affected by the airstrikes move farther west into the area of separation in the vicinity of United Nations positions and the Israeli technical fence. After the air campaign ended, the individuals moved back east in the direction of their villages. The following day, while shelling continued, around 150 civilians, mostly women and children, moved into the vicinity of position 80.”

No doubt such continual airstrikes in the border region are a good reason that hundreds of women and children have been treated in Israeli hospitals.

The UN observers also note that “on 24 November, an exchange of fire took place between members of different armed groups in the vicinity of United Nations position 80. … On 27 November, United Nations personnel at position 80 once again observed an exchange of fire between members of different armed groups approximately 1 km from the position.”

The fact that the UN reports – not just this one, but also previous reports and following reports – speak of fighting between different armed opposition groups, casts further doubt on the proposition that Israel is allied to Nusra in the region, or that we can judge that most fighters in the region are Nusra just because Nusra seized the border post.

It is just as likely the opposite: that Israel may be providing some material support to non-Nusra fighters in the border region to keep Nusra at bay. According to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the IDF is providing assistance (heaters, blankets etc) to “Syrian border villages” on condition that “the more moderate militias in the border area keep radical militias away from the Israeli border” (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.632418). Even then however, to suggest that such assistance may include some light arms would be conjecture, because so far we still have no indication that any material aid (let alone arms) has been provided to any fighters, except two boxes.

The next report, from March 3 to May 28, 2015 (http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/405) tells us that:

“On 26 April, United Nations observation post 73 heard three explosions in the vicinity of an IDF position located west of the observation post and subsequently observed smoke west of the position and IDF air activity west of the Alpha line. Shortly thereafter, IDF informed UNDOF that they had killed four “terrorists” carrying “heavy equipment” who had crossed the Alpha line from an eastern direction as they approached an IDF position approximately 500 m north-west of observation post 73.”

Interesting. Who were the “terrorists” that the IDF killed?

The report goes on with the usual list of civilians, “mostly shepherds,” crossing the ceasefire line on an almost daily basis, of wounded people, sometimes on stretchers, being handed over across the line, of “two men (no indication that they were armed) being transported from an easterly direction on the Bravo side to a gate in the Israeli technical fence north of their location” and “the vehicles subsequently left the location without the two men” and so on. Nothing that could even be remotely connected to “Israel’s support to al-Nusra.”

The only interesting thing is a claim that, “on 19 May, United Nations personnel at observation post 51 observed three individuals from the Bravo side in a vehicle crossing the Alpha line. They collected about 50 mines, after which they left the location.” Who these “individuals” were is unclear.

Next, the report tells us of further intense fighting between armed groups that centred on the area of Al Qahtaniyah and its surroundings in the central part of the area of separation,” between 27 April and 5 May, but “the IDF did not retaliate to the spillover incidents,” except once when “UNDOF observed two tank rounds being fired from an area just south-east of Camp Ziouani on the Alpha side towards Al Qahtaniyah in the area of separation. The points of impact were not observed.”

However, unlike in the other reports, in this one there is some indication of who may have been fighting on this particular occasion. Noting that the UN “does not have the means to verify reports independently,” they claim that several sources suggested the clashes involved “a coalition of armed groups” including Nusra (I think about the only time Nusra is even mentioned in these reports, except for the taking of UN troops hostage), the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and forces from the Southern Front of the FSA, “attacked positions of the newly formed armed group Jaysh al-Jihad,” because Jaysh al-Jihad is linked to ISIS. The UN report indicates the rebel coalition defeated the ISIS front.

It was in the news that an ISIS front suddenly appeared in that region around this time, and, like everywhere in Syria, was attacked and defeated by rebels. Of course, there is no indication of Israeli support to Nusra or other rebels even when they are driving away ISIS. Of course, there is no indication of any Syrian regime attempt to expel the ISIS front.

The report also notes that during this fight against ISIS, “Syrian armed forces re-established control over Al Samdaniyah, in the central part of the area of separation, south of Al Baath, and occasionally targeted exposed high-value assets of the armed groups, destroying at least one tank.” As elsewhere in Syria during that period, and most periods, the appearance of ISIS tends to bolster the regime against the rebels.

However, this ISIS group was not there earlier, so the previously reported clashes between armed groups in the region could have been an entirely different line-up. The report also notes “occasional fighting between rival armed groups” after the defeat of ISIS, and in particular “friction growing between the Al-Nusra Front and the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade.”

From what I can see in the reports, that’s it. As for Silverstein’s assertion that the “relevant UN reports” tell of Israel having built “a camp to house fighters and their families on Israeli-held territory” and that “it conducts regular meetings with Islamist commanders and provides military and other critical supplies to them,” unless I am blind this is entirely his invention.


What can we conclude from the UN reports?

 To summarise the reports: a number of minor incidents were observed of apparently unarmed people crossing the separation line; members of armed groups crossed the line and “interacted” with the IDF, in most cases to hand wounded people over to the IDF for medical treatment, or the IDF handed back treated patients; on one such occasion the IDF also handed over two boxes; there was not a single other reference to anything received from across the line by any armed group; some apparently unarmed trucks crossed over, in one case bringing back some kind of supplies; there were constant clashes between armed groups; there is not a single specific mention of Nusra in any of this, except the one occasion when it allied with other rebels to defeat an ISIS-allied incursion.

It is from this, and from the fact that Israel does not check for Nusra membership cards when wounded people cross the line for treatment that many have declared “Israel is directly aiding al-Qaida.”

My conclusion from this is that Israel is aiding no one, though it is possible that some wounded FSA and Nusra fighters have been fixed up in an Israeli hospital.

If among this there has been some small-scale material aid (eg, let’s assume for argument’s sake that the civilian truck which brought back supplies later took them to a group of fighters), then Nusra was probably the least likely recipient. I want to stress, however, that this does not mean that I think Israel is aiding the FSA Southern Front, or that the Southern Front would want a bar of Israel any more than Nusra does; and since the “evidence” of Israel aiding anyone, as shown above, amounts to nothing at all, it would be pure slander to conclude that “Israel does not aid Nusra, but only the FSA.”

If it is true that Israel has “assisted villages near the border in exchange for keeping extremist Islamist groups (ie, Nusra) away from the border” (see above) then it should not be assumed that the local village militias in question are “FSA” any more than “Nusra.” They may simply be non-ideological village guards. In fact, this same article went on to slander a number of FSA groups in the region as “sleeper cells” for ISIS and suggested Israel would need to get more involved in Syria to counter them.

To her credit, Khalek appears to not support the Assad regime, despite her article being standard Assadist fare:

“While Assad’s policies, including the bombardments that have devastated cities and towns forcing millions to flee their homes, have contributed to the chaos and vacuum that has enabled extremist groups to flourish in some areas, Israel’s actions on behalf of those groups grant credence to his claim.”

It would seem logical to me that destroying entire cities and towns and forcing millions from their homes is of a somewhat more serious nature than things such as not checking the ID cards of wounded patients, allowing a couple of unarmed guys to cross the line and loading a civilian truck with supplies, in terms of these alleged “actions on behalf of” extremist groups.

Israel, Hezbollah, Nusra and the Golan

In terms of more general Israeli policy, these writers note that Israel has attacked Hezbollah positions a number of times, but has not attacked Nusra (or FSA) positions, indicating a preference for having these Syrian rebel formations, even Nusra, in the Golan region rather than Hezbollah.

As Silverstein correctly points out, this is not due to any real Israeli opposition to the Assad regime, but rather to Israel’s opposition to its Iranian and Hezbollah allies who have now intervened massively to artificially prop up the dying regime. This is true: as previously noted, Israel prefers the Assad regime to any of these irregular forces, but it no longer has that choice, and has a different view of Hezbollah than it has of the pliant Assad regime.

Khalek quotes retired Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff for Israel’s defense minister, that “Nusra are totally focused on the war in Syria and aren’t focused on us. But when Hizballah and Iran and others are pushing south, they are very much focused on us.”

It is certainly true that neither Nusra nor the FSA has set out to provoke an Israeli response by trying to prematurely liberate the Golan; they are “focused” on fighting the Syrian regime as this is the reason for their existence. At this moment, they would obviously be mad to provoke another genocidal regime at their back when they are busy fighting another one in front of them. Silverstein’s alternative suggestion that Nusra is not currently attacking Israel “due to the aid it offers them on the battlefield” is entirely fanciful, especially given the level of “evidence” for this “aid.”

In that sense, pragmatically, Israel can tolerate their presence in the region – at present – just as it was happy with the presence of a pliant Assad for 40 years. But not all Israeli leaders share Herzog’s view; the Zionist elite is deeply divided. For example, Brigadier General Itai Baron, the head of the Military Intelligence and Research Division of the Israeli Defense Forces (the second most senior position within Israel’s military intelligence establishment), said that “it is just a matter of time” before Syrian “Islamist” organisations, spearheaded by al-Nusra, “begin to target us from the Golan Plateau according to their radical ideology.” If they are not doing it yet it is only because they are busy confronting the Assad regime, but their ideology “clearly states that Damascus should be seized first and then they could proceed to liberating Jerusalem” (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/16413-an-israeli-general-the-jihadists-will-set-the-golan-on-fire-against-us).

On the question of Hezbollah, where Herzog claims that Hezbollah is focused on Israel as it “pushes south,” in fact there is no reason to believe this. Actually, the whole purpose of Hezbollah’s adventure in Syria is to prop up the Assad regime, and so it is also “totally focused on the war in Syria.” Indeed, other leading Israeli strategists say the exact opposite of Herzog – ie, that Hezbollah’s focus on Syria means it won’t bother Israel (http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/e7600499-fc09-4b0c-b2db-2b57f6c3f6fa). In fact, from the outset, Hezbollah promised that Israel’s northern border would be “the safest place in the world” due to Hezbollah’s “focus” on Syria (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.580751). Silverstein’s assertion that Hezbollah “constantly probes in this sector and mounts attacks against Israeli forces” is entirely imaginary: in all its time in Syria, Hezbollah never attacked “Israeli forces” and never even responded to Israel’s sporadic attacks on it until its response to Israel’s killing of several of its cadres in January this year.

As for Khalek’s claim that Israel views “the destruction of Syria as an opportunity to incapacitate Hizballah in southern Lebanon by draining its resources in Syria” really makes no sense: it is Hezbollah that made the fateful decision to squander its cadres’ lives, resources and energy on slaughtering Syrians on behalf of some tyrant; Israel can be blamed for a lot of things, but certainly not for Nasrallah’s Syrian treachery. If Israel were to now take advantage of this weakness to destroy Hezbollah in south Lebanon or even to annex further parts of the still occupied Shebaa region, Hezbollah would have itself to blame.

Notably, none of the occasional Israeli strikes on Hezbollah have had any military significance, and on no occasion has Israel struck Hezbollah in the context of a battle with Nusra or the FSA; and the occasional strikes on Syrian regime forces have mostly been on warehouses suspected of transferring Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Of course, it may well be surmised that Israel would prefer to not have two borders with Hezbollah and this may be a reason to keep it away from the Golan “border,” in case Israel ever launches an attack on Iran; however, as the famed Israeli attack on Iran is almost certainly just a massive propaganda exercise by the Zionist regime needing a “Third Reich” to justify its continued racist existence, and not something likely to happen (Israel has been threatening to bomb Iran “within weeks” for a quarter of a century), I tend to view the occasional pinprick strikes on Hezbollah within that propagandistic context.

In any case, Israel appears to view Iranian and Hezbollah activity in Syria somewhat favourably as long as it is further north from the Golan. In May,  IDF spokesman Alon Ben-David noted that:

“The Israeli military intelligence confirms that the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s ability to protect the Syrian regime has dramatically declined, making the Israeli military command more cautious of a sudden fall of the Syrian regime which will let battle-hardened jihadist groups rule near the Israeli border.

Therefore, he reported that the Israeli Air Force and the Military Intelligence Service are preparing a list of targets that are likely to be struck inside Syria, after a possible fall of the Assad regime (http://aranews.net/2015/05/israel-prepares-for-a-post-assad-phase-in-neighboring-syria/).

Even the analysis that Israel at this moment has a general preference for anyone on the anti-Iranian side, and thus prefers the opposition to Assad, is far from clear; rather there appears to be a sharp divide within the Israeli ruling class. For example, on January 14, Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, said that Assad was the least harmful choice in Syria, and that western powers “should strengthen the Syrian regime’s steadfastness in the face of its opponents.” If they allowed Assad to fall, “they would have committed the most egregious mistake” and this “would turn the region into a fertile ground for the jihadist groups with radical Islamic ideology, which will target Europe and Israel with their terrorist operations, in contrast to the Syrian regime which would never think of such steps if guaranteed to remain in power” (http://aranews.net/2015/01/assad-least-harmful-israeli-official/).

I have fully analysed this issue of Israel’s changing relationship to the Syrian war here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/the-syrian-war-israel-hezbollah-and-the-us-iran-romance-is-israel-changing-its-view-on-the-war/


Conclusion: Behind the fairy-tale

At the end of the day, the issue is not so much who might be providing microscopic amounts of material “aid” to who in rapidly changing circumstances and shifting interests, as what are the longer-term interests of Israel in the region.

For exactly the same reason that Israel was happy to live with a stable right-wing dictatorship on its stolen northern border for half a century, the worst thing for Zionist interests would be the establishment of a democratic, secular Syria as a result of an armed people’s uprising against that dictatorship. Whatever Zionist leaders might say, the threat of a southern alliance between the secular FSA Southern Front and the Druze communities of the south would be a nightmare for a state based on sectarian ethnic cleansing and ongoing apartheid.

As I analysed recently, this promise appeared to be close just on the eve of Nusra’s massacre of 23 Druze in northern Idlib several weeks ago. Nusra’s reactionary sectarian activities have allowed both the Assad dictatorship and the Zionist occupiers to pose as protectors of the “besieged” Druze minority, while the event itself naturally caused caution and consternation among the Druze, despite the vigorous condemnation of Nusra’s actions by the Southern Front and all other revolutionary forces in Syria.

It could be argued that precisely for this reason, the sectarian Zionist state may well secretly be happy with the growth of sectarian Sunni organisations like Nusra or even the more murderously sectarian ISIS – in the same way as the sectarian Syrian Alawi-centric regime has been dabbling with ISIS against the revolution for years.

The reality is, however, that it is nothing other than the genocidal slaughter unleashed by the Syrian regime, together with the betrayal of the democratic and secular revolutionary forces by western powers who have pretended to be sympathetic, that leads to the growth of mirror-image sectarian forces which sit uneasily within the armed opposition (Nusra) as well as those which are openly hostile to it (ISIS). Neither Israel nor the US would need to do a thing to help boost these forces.

But in any case, the fact that Israel may secretly prefer sectarianism to a democratic, secular Syria cannot be interpreted as support for such organisations which are also resolutely hostile to Israel and imperialism. Indeed, the part of Khalek’s article that shows some Israeli leaders cynically expressing the view that an ISIS-ruled Syria would enable Israel to gain international support for its annexation of the Golan, is clearly not a declaration of support for ISIS, but just the opposite. After all, Gilad Sharon “added that Israel could rely on the West’s so-called anti-ISIS coalition to defeat a victorious ISIS next door, allowing Israel to bask in its newly annexed territory without lifting a finger.”

Thus taking advantage of sectarians is not the same as supporting them or arming them. In any case the simple fact of the matter is the evidence, as above, is not there. Why then are people promoting a story that is based on nothing?

Unlike ISIS, Nusra fights mostly against the regime (and against ISIS) alongside other Syrian rebel groups. Therefore, this “Israel supports Nusra” fairy-story is not aimed at claiming that Israel is secretly aiding a sectarian diversion of the revolution, but, on the contrary, the aim is the same old warped conspiracy theory that the mighty Syrian revolution is just a conspiracy orchestrated by a US-Zionist-Gulf-Jihadist-Martian cabal bent on destroying the nice progressive “secular” regime of Assad. Quite deliberately, these writers conflate Nusra with the FSA and other rebels; the fact that the UN reports talk about, for example, handing two boxes to members of an “armed group” for these writers automatically means Nusra. Even when it was found out that the wounded fighter murdered by the Druze lynch-mob was in the FSA and not Nusra, these haters declare him an “Islamist” fighter, in order to be as dishonest as is humanly possible without still calling him “Nusra” – for them, Nusra, Islamists and FSA are all the same thing.

The entire fairy-tale of Israeli support to either Nusra or the FSA in the south is based on nothing. Stupid stories, however, can have deadly results.

Revolutionary Forces Throughout Syria condemn Nusra’s massacre of Druze Villagers

Revolutionary Forces Throughout Syria condemn Nusra’s massacre of Druze Villagers

By Michael Karadjis


The second week of June witnessed two major events concerning the relationship between the Druze religious minority and the Syrian revolution.

In northern Idlib province, where Druze have taken an active part in the recent liberation of the capital and from the Assad regime and the other string of stunning rebel victories (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhdTobHYw94&feature=youtu.be), a provocation against a Druze house by a unit of the Sunni-jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra – aligned to the main rebel groups in the province – led to a massacre of over 20 Druze.

The exact details are still unclear, but it seems it was either a purely gang-related action by the Nusra unit (a unit led by a Tunisian known to be a “hard-liner”) which had been dealing in property of people absent from the region, or at best, an attempt to use an empty house to settle displaced people, in both versions, an action rejected by neighbouring relatives of the absent owners. An argument developed into shots fired; then before mainstream rebel forces arrived to try to mediate, the Nusra unit shot over 20 of the Druze.

Here are some relevant accounts, for my money the EAWorldview account (the gang-land account) seems the most convincing, but none of them deny that the Nusra unit was responsible:

http://eaworldview.com/2015/06/syria-daily-jabhat-al-nusra-unit-kills-23-druze-in-idlib-province/; https://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/syria-idlib-the-true-story-of-the-massacre-in-qalb-loz-between-the-druzes-and-jan/; http://syriadirect.org/news/nusra-emir-to-idlib-druze-give-me-1000-rifles/

Major Rebel Groups in Idlib condemn massacre

This crime was condemned by all other rebel groups in the north, including, importantly, all the major Islamist groups. Due to Nusra’s military prowess in the region, and the fact that it has focused most of its energy on fighting the regime and ISIS rather than oppressing and terrorising people like ISIS does, these secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist rebels in Idlib have been in a military alliance with Nusra called Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest).

However, this pact, while deemed necessary given the massively greater military might of the regime and ISIS, has never been as smooth as western media and its leftist echo often makes out; in fact it was formed in March following months of clashes between Nusra and other rebel groups (since November 2014) and dozens of demonstrations against Nusra repression throughout the province (I have analysed this here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/as-nusra-plays-at-isis-lite-the-us-excels-as-assads-airforce/). Its formation, with Nusra in a minority, yet important, position within the front, reflects the results of this shake-out and the necessity of focusing for now on the greatest purveyor of violence in the country first.

(As an aside: when Nusra launched unilateral armed aggression against the largest FSA coalition in Idlib, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, last November, many observers said the SRF was “corrupt,” they tax people at checkpoints (!!) and so on, whereas Nusra may not be an ideal choice but at least they’re clean! If the EA Worldview story above is correct, then these events would appear an issue of outright corruption, gangsterism, theft etc, anything but “clean.”)

Following the massacre of the Druze, five of the largest militias in Idlib (and members of the Jaysh a-Fatah coalition) – Ahrar al-Sham, the Sham Front, Ajnad al-Sham, Thuwar al-Sham and Fastaqm Kama Umrat – issued a statement condemning the killing of Druze, in a statement declaring that “Islam forbids spilling people’s blood whatever their sect is” (https://twitter.com/Charles_Lister/status/609449774673211392). The statement explicitly refers to “sons of the Druze sect,” and hails their “support for the Syrian revolution and giving refuge to the sons of their homeland who have fled from all areas of Idlib province under pressure of the bombing of the Assad regime and its criminal actions.” It then calls for neutral arbitration, and promises to coordinate with all other sects to prevent such a crime from reoccurring in “liberated areas.”

It is extremely significant that these five are mostly major Islamist brigades, with the first on the list (Ahrar al-Sham) often referred to as “hard-line” by a western media that hasn’t caught up with its evolution over the last two years (and indeed it has been bombed by the US twice since the intervention began last year and is officially slandered as a “terrorist” organisation by the US government). The stress on not spilling the blood “whatever the sect is” seems clear enough to me, and leftists should avoid painting every “Islamist” brigade with the “sectarian” brush if ignorant of the specifics of each case.

For other statements condemning the massacre by the FSA Southern Front, the Syrian Coalition and even by Nusra itself, see below.

Southern Front Advances to Druze Borders in the South

Meanwhile, in southern Daraa province, the magnificent Southern Front (SF) of the Free Syrian Army, following a string of equally stunning victories over the last few months (including the ancient town of Busra al-Sham and the last Jordanian border post), this week drove the regime out of Base 52, the second largest military base in the south – acquiring a large amount of military hardware in the process. This brought them to the border of the Druze-majority province of Suweida.

While in the north the secular FSA shares the stage with some large Islamist militias, in the south the 35,000 troops in the Southern Front, consisting of some 54 brigades, absolutely dominates the struggle, with only a few thousand each of Islamic Front and Nusra fighters. Moreover, while in the north they are forced to deal with the reality of Nusra, in the south the Southern Front several months ago issued a declaration that it would refuse any further cooperation with Nusra, whether on a military level or on the level of “political ideology,” while insisting this was also no “declaration of war” (http://eaworldview.com/2015/04/syria-interview-why-southern-rebels-distanced-themselves-from-jabhat-al-nusra/).

Druze in Suweida: Open Revolt Against Regime

The Druze in Suweida have tried to maintain neutrality in the war, though their forcible resistance to regime conscription has led them into open conflict with the regime (https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/565324-syria-druze-protest-regime-conscription, http://syriadirect.org/main/36-interviews/1946-defected-general-druze-do-not-represent-a-cog-in-the-regime-machine), and a militant anti-regime movement has emerged from among Druze sheiks (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Jan-31/285926-druze-sheikhs-sound-the-alarm-bell.ashx). Above all the Druze reject being sent anywhere else in Syria to help the regime slaughter other Syrians, insisting instead that their young men stay to defend Suweida against possible jihadist attack. As Hafez Faraj, a defected Druze Air Force general, explains:

“Popular anger has existed towards the regime since the beginning of the revolution, however the forced conscription and death of hundreds of Druze from the Suwayda area in recent months pushed people over the limit. Druze men have been forced to fight alongside the regime in an unjust war against the Syrian people since the beginning of the uprising, however now it has gotten worse” (http://syriadirect.org/main/36-interviews/1946-defected-general-druze-do-not-represent-a-cog-in-the-regime-machine).

With the hollow regime once again running away when ISIS took Palmyra in the desert west of Suweida, the Druze know very well they cannot rely on the regime, indeed many suspect the regime would not even try, indeed that the regime aims to withdraw to defend the Damascus-Qalamoun-Homs-Alawite coast undeclared mini-state, and leave outlying regions like Suweida to ISIS (http://www.syrianobserver.com/EN/News/29276/Regime_Paves_Way_ISIS_Capture_Suweida). As such, there have been indications of a possible breakthrough of an FSA-Druze alliance in the south, an eminently logical development, given that it has only been the FSA and its allies that have been able to defeat ISIS throughout Syria.

In recent weeks, Druze led by the openly anti-regime ‘Sheiks for Dignity’ movement has blocked attempts by the regime to move heavy weaponry out of Suweida to help defend Damascus (http://syriadirect.org/news/another-regime-convoy-reportedly-blocked-by-druze-from-leaving-province/). The Southern Front in Daraa and the Druze in Suweida have also met recently to iron out issues of bad blood related to  a series of kidnappings, in the process declaring solidarity against the regime (http://syriadirect.org/news/southern-front-spokesman-on-suwayda-druze-%E2%80%98ball-is-in-their-court-now%E2%80%99/). Druze leaders even accused the regime of shelling Daraa in order to blame it on rebels to foment disunity (https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/565426-druze-cleric-accuses-regime-of-shelling-suweida), and, although a pro-regime Druze leader called it a “religious duty” to join the regime forces, according to Druze political activist Noura al-Basha, “no one has joined yet” (http://syriadirect.org/news/joining-regime-army-religious-duty-says-suwayda-sheikh/). Then several days ago, Druze FSA fighter Abu Kamel urged Suweida Druze to take up arms against the regime (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pWkz5nzYwk&feature=youtu.be).

Southern Rebels Vigorously Condemn Massacre

It was in this enormously critical context that the massacre took place in Idlib in the north. Naturally, the Southern Front, which has continually issued strongly worded anti-sectarian statements about the nature of the struggle and the revolution (of course ignored by the imperialist media and its “anti-imperialist left” echo), vigorously condemned Nusra’s crime:

“The Southern Front condemns in the strongest terms the horrible massacre that happened to our people in Luweiza in Idlib committed by the Nusra Front and considers it a crime committed against common living and Syrian diversity in general and announces its readiness to protect Druze villages in Idlib as an additional step to protect Syrian diversity and richness” (https://www.facebook.com/solidaysyria/photos/a.634790499897689.1073741830.625693980807341/913965731980163/?type=1).

To further reassure the Druze, seventeen major rebel factions in the south (15 FSA, one Islamic Front and one independent brigade) put out another statement condemning the killing and stressing that the FSA is opposed to the revolution becoming a sectarian war (https://twitter.com/arabthomness/status/610108858195935233/photo/1;    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIEYvTruvmc).

In a notable development, the Southern Front called a temporary halt to its offensive to seize the al-Thala airbase. The airbase is close to Base 52 and was the next obvious target; the FSA launched its attack several days ago, but Nusra’s crime came in the middle of it; the airbase borders Daraa and Suweida, and many of the defenders were local Druze. Given the conflicting views within Suweida, the FSA made a political decision specifically in light of Nusra’s actions to negotiate with the Druze first. Sources told EA Worldview (http://eaworldview.com/2015/06/syria-daily-kurds-and-rebels-close-on-islamic-state-in-key-town-on-turkish-border/) that the Southern Front “had orders to retreat for two reasons”:

  1. The timing was bad, especially after Jabhat al-Nusra committed a massacre in Idlib, killing 23 Druze, given that most of the fighters defending al-Thala are Druze —- even though Jabhat al-Nusra is not participating in our offensive.
  2. There have been negotiations with the Druze in the south to withdraw their people from the airbase. These negotiations were ongoing as the offensive started.

This decision shows a strongly political mode of thinking by the southern FSA leadership, indicating how seriously it takes its continuous declarations about the anti-sectarian nature of the Syrian revolution.

Syrian Coalition Statement

The exile-based Syrian Coalition of course also condemned the massacre and clearly blamed Nusra (http://en.etilaf.org/all-news/news/al-nusra-front-attacks-druze-villagers-in-idlib-province.html):

“As the Assad regime continues to kill more Syrians and rain more barrel bombs on rural Idlib, where dozens were killed, the Syrian people are deeply shocked by news of the death of dozens of Druze young men at the hands of elements of Al-Nusra Front in the village of Qalb Lawzeh of Mount Simmaq in rural Idlib. The killings occurred during an armed clash between elements of Al-Nusra Front and residents of the village following an attack launched by Al-Nusra.”

Of course, the Syrian Coalition has a hostile relationship with Nusra in general, but it is notable that the Coalition thanked other Islamist brigades which are also outside the Coalition and in general in disagreement with it. The statement correctly noted that

“Revolutionary forces operating in the area acted quickly to contain the situation and have contacted with concerned sides at home and abroad, thus foiling attempts to further fuel the situation. We cannot but commend the role played by some of these forces, for example, but not limited to, Ahrar al-Sham, Al Sham Corps and other rebel factions and the provincial council in coordination with the Syrian Coalition. These contacts succeeded in containing the situation and in preventing more bloodshed.”

The Coalition “further stresses its commitment to preserving the unity of the Syrian people and Syria’s demography, calling for protecting all components of the Syrian society and for ensuring they are not forced out of their homes. It also calls for achieving security in the areas of religious and ethnic minorities and for working out mechanisms to ward off all forms of strife and sedition.”

Nusra Condemns Crime, Promises Punishment, However …

Back to the north, several days after the events, Nusra itself issued a condemnation of the killings, claiming that the unit in question had acted “in clear violation of the leadership’s views.” Claiming that it had immediately dispatched a committee to the village to “reassure the residents that what happened was unjustifiable,” Nusra promised that “everyone who was involved in this incident will be referred to an Islamic court and will be held accountable” (http://eaworldview.com/2015/06/syria-daily-kurds-and-rebels-close-on-islamic-state-in-key-town-on-turkish-border/#JAN).

Whether one decides this is genuine or merely a statement reflecting the pressure of the revolutionary masses and other revolutionary forces, Nusra’s statement itself indicates how incorrect it is to lump Nusra in the same camp as ISIS, as is done by the US (which regularly bombs Nusra) and the Assadists. And in particular it is up to the other militias in Idlib, which have condemned this crime, to see that Nusra carries through with its promise to hold the perpetrators accountable.

It is also significant that the massacre of 23 people by Nusra has been condemned by the entirety of the revolutionary forces in Syria, including by Nusra itself, whereas the fascist regime, which massacres 100-150 people every day¸ has of course never carried out a condemnation of itself. This is something for pro-Assadist leftists who like to carry on about “jihadi terrorists,” as well as those who see “a plague on both your houses,” ought to mull on.

On the other hand, while Nusra laying blame on an individual unit may seem straightforward enough, unfortunately the reality is somewhat different. In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, Nusra Emir Abu Muhammad al Joulani, he tried to put on a moderate face by insisting that Nusra only fights those who fight for the regime, not ordinary civilians from non-Sunni minorities, stressing that “random Alawite non-combatants” have nothing to fear and that there are Druze villages right there in Idlib and they “are not being attacked but secured,” which he also offered to Alawites which reject the regime. However, he also said that “we’ve been calling them (the Druze) to Islam,” and specifically noted that Druze temples will not be tolerated, and that, only those Alawites and Druze who “abandon the regime and their beliefs” and “go back to Islam” become our “brothers.”

This double talk – we won’t physically attack you unless you fight for the regime, but you need to reject your religion to become our “brothers” can be held at least part responsible for the actions of the Nusra unit, alongside other criminal intentions. But more importantly, some Druze villages in Idlib are under Nusra control, and have been living under a regime of forced public conversion to Nusra’s version of Sunni Islam (http://syriadirect.org/news/idlib-druze-agree-to-forced-conversion-destroyed-shrines-under-nusra-rule/). In contrast, where Druze villages are in regions controlled by other rebel groups, “though allied with Nusra on the battlefield, they let them conduct their daily lives and customs” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/12/world/middleeast/nusra-front-druse-syria-attack.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Mideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&_r=0).

This once again highlights the fact that, while the fascist regime – which is responsible for around 95 percent of mass murder in Syria – and its ISIS mirror are the open enemies of the revolution, once the regime is defeated, the main “internal” threat to the revolution will be the more die-hard elements of Nusra.

It also once again underlines a key contradiction of the revolution in its military phase: forced to fight by a fascist regime which slaughtered peaceful protest, military struggle brings with it great political problems. To win against such a regime, with such enormous superiority in mass killing power, alliance with groups like Nusra are an empirical advantage, even necessity, at this stage; yet this very fact is a major political impediment to dealing with the key strategic political issue of the revolution: bridging the sectarian divide which the regime has deliberately created.

Zionist Manoeuvres?

Meanwhile, other actors outside may find the “”Druze question” just too much of a good opportunity; Israel appears interested in competing with Assad in the role of (bogus) “protector of minorities.” The fact that the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights is populated by Druze gives Israel a special interest. Aiming to use the jihadi (whether ISIS or Nusra) threat to the Druze to gain influence in Suweida, or to finally persuade the Druze in Golan that being “Israeli” is a better bet than being in a Syria where Assad’s “minority” state has collapsed, or to perhaps annex a further part of Syria, Israel is said to be “mulling the creation of a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in order to aid Druze refugees.” While Druze Zionist Council head Atta Farhat warned of an impending “holocaust” of Syrian Druze, Netanyahu urged US head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, to boost American aid to the Druze, and President Reuven Rivlin “told the general there is a “threat to the very existence of half a million Druze on the Mount of Druze” in Syria (http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-weighs-safe-zone-for-syrias-embattled-druze/).

While ISIS and possibly Nusra may do their best (unintentionally) to help Israel pursue such a course, a southern non-sectarian FSA-Druze alliance, by contrast, might portend a future Syria that would have the exact opposite effect on the Druze in Golan to that which Israel intends. Whatever the small-scale manouvures, bits and pieces of evidence or non-evidence of miniscule aid by Israel to this or that group in the south against someone else within the military confrontation (or the absurd hype about Israeli hospitals looking after rebel patients), at the end of the day the worst thing for Israel would be a democratic secular non-sectarian Syria.


Conspiracy theories that “the US fuelled the rise of ISIS”: Why they are a back-handed attack on the Syrian uprising


By Michael Karadjis

In early June, journalist Seamus Milne penned a piece for the Guardian entitled ‘Now the truth emerges how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq’ (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq).

Of course, we all wait for “the truth.” The nickname “truth” has been used by every kind of religious organisation for centuries – indeed they all had opposing “truths.” Generations of Americans saw the reflection of their own imperialist leaders in Superman fighting for “truth, justice and the American way.” For decades Soviet citizens were told their leaders spoke only “the truth” in a newspaper by that name.

Milne, in other words, is in good company.

For an article that promises to show that the US “fuelled the rise of ISIS,” it begins, oddly enough, with a failed “terrorism” case in the UK that had zero to do with ISIS. Perhaps Milne was just making a separate point with this example, despite the title. But there is so much wrong with the “example” and Milne’s implications about it that the case is worth looking at in its own terms.

Milne writes that “on Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.” Further, the defence “argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.”

Milne also claimed that alleged British aid to “the armed Syrian opposition” was not only non-lethal aid but also training, logistics and secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”.

Gildo’s defence lawyers used a number of articles from the media to help their case. According to the article about the trial that Milne links to, by Richard Norton-Taylor, these included “one from the Guardian on 8 March 2013, on the west’s training of Syrian rebels in Jordan,” New York Times articles on 24 March and 21 June 2013 (in fact, 2012), “and an article in the London Review of Books from 14 April 2014, (which) implicated MI6 in a “rat line” for the transfer of arms from Libya” (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/01/trial-swedish-man-accused-terrorism-offences-collapse-bherlin-gildo?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Mideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign).

Now, I agree with Milne that it would be absurd to send someone to prison “for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves,” and indeed I am pleased that it is thus more difficult to prosecute people going to fight Assad’s tyranny on trumped up “terrorism” charges.

But Milne’s points here seem to be more about using the case (1) to claim that Britain and the US really were “massively arming” the Syrian rebellion, (2) to suggest that, if true, this would not be a good thing to do, and (3) to try to connect the alleged “terrorists” that he alleges Britain and the US were supporting to those that Gildo was fighting with, and both to the actual ISIS terrorists. In other words, making the case that any support to the great Syrian uprising against a fascist regime leads directly to support for ISIS; it’s the same thing. As Milne asserts: “American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria.” Thus to Milne, both ISIS, and the Syrian rebels – who have done more to fight ISIS than anyone else in the region – are both “rebels.”

It therefore becomes a political issue. It is worth clarifying a number of points here: what exactly the court said; what these articles alleged about who the British government (or the US government, which Milne’s title refers to) was aiding at this time (2012), and the reality of this aid; who Gildo was alleged to be fighting for; and what any of these organisations have to do with “the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.”

“The truth,” it turns out, is something based on “amalgam” theory taken to an absurd level. An example of amalgam theory would be to say, for example, that since the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutionary leftist governments, ISIS, al-Qaida, the Iranian regime, Hamas, the French National Front and a wing of the US paleao-right (Buchanan etc) are also vocally opposed to US intervention around the world, that they therefore must all be allied or have something in common.

What the court say in the Gildo case?

First of all, the role of a court of law was not to do in-depth research into who exactly was aiding who and how much and what relationship they had to each other and so on. While I have not read the court transcripts, Milne’s assertion that “it became clear” in the court that British intelligence “had been arming the same rebel groups” as Gildo was fighting for would seem highly unlikely because it flatly contradicts what is in all the media articles referred to. Rather, the Norton-Taylor article says that “Gildo’s defence lawyers” asserted this.

Milne simply made up the “it became clear” stuff.

And actually, when the defence lawyers are quoted in that article, it seems that even Norton-Taylor was simply being “journalistic” in using the term “the same rebel groups.” In reality, the article quotes defence counsel Henry Blaxland QC:

If it is the case that HM government was actively involved in supporting armed resistance to the Assad regime at a time when the defendant was present in Syria and himself participating in such resistance it would be unconscionable to allow the prosecution to continue … “if government agencies, of which the prosecution is a part, are themselves involved in the use of force, in whatever way, it is our submission that would be an affront to justice to allow the prosecution to continue.”

So, nothing to do with “the same rebel groups” at all; on the contrary, merely the fact that both whoever M16 was allegedly supporting, and the group Gildo was in, were both part of the (broad, multi-faceted) “armed resistance” to Syria’s fascistic regime, if it involved some “use of force, in whatever way.”

Moreover, it is also not true that the defence lawyers, let alone the court, decided it was ‘clear” that British intelligence had been involved in these activities (after all, imagine if our courts decided what was “the truth” based on articles in the mass media); rather, what Gildo’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, said was that:

“Given that there is a reasonable basis for believing that the British were themselves involved in the supply of arms, if that’s so, it would be an utter hypocrisy to prosecute someone who has been involved in the armed resistance.”

The CIA role in Turkey: preventing the Syrian rebels getting the arms they needed

The second question is who these articles alleged about who the British or US governments and intelligence agencies were aiding at this time, and the nature and quantity of this alleged aid.

Firstly, looking at the two New York Times articles mentioned, there is no mention of British intelligence. The allegations there are entirely about the CIA. A number of things are clear from these articles. First, that the role of the CIA officers, based in Turkey, was not to supply arms (“the Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels”), but rather to “help” those supplying arms “decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms.” Those allegedly supplying the arms were “a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html).

What was the nature of the decision-making “help”? According to the same New York Times article (June 21, 2012), “the C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.”

Further details are in the March 24, 2013 New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html). This article gives details on very significant arms shipments from Qatar throughout 2012 and into 2013, and then later arms shipments from Saudi Arabia beginning at the end of 2012. The supply of arms to Syrian rebels by these two countries is a well-established fact.

Milne may have a problem with that; but Syrian victims of Assad’s genocidal slaughter, and for opponents of tyranny everywhere (myself included), their arming of the Syrian rebels, for their own reasons, might be seen as one of the few good things they do (and from this article, we see that the rebels on the ground, facing such a massive military machine as Assad’s, had a very different assessment of how significant these shipments were to western media claims). But this are not the issue here. The issue is the actual role of the CIA and who they were supporting.

According to the article, “Qatar has been an active arms supplier — so much so that the United States became concerned about some of the Islamist groups that Qatar has armed … The American government became involved, the former American official said, in part because there was a sense that other states would arm the rebels anyhow. The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles … But the rebels were clamoring for even more weapons, continuing to assert that they lacked the firepower to fight a military armed with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft … Many were also complaining, saying they were hearing from arms donors that the Obama administration was limiting their supplies and blocking the distribution of the antiaircraft and anti-armor weapons they most sought.”

Regarding the Saudi shipments, which the US was allegedly more OK with, they were via Jordan and explicitly for rebels in the south. Even today, secular FSA forces have absolute dominance in the rebellion in the south; back at that time Islamist and definitely jihadist forces were next to completely absent there.

To summarise: the two NYT articles say nothing about British intelligence; do not tell us exactly which groups were being armed, but that the role of the CIA was to prevent weapons getting to “Islamist groups” or “fighters allied with al-Qaida;” they don’t say the US supplied arms but that it “limited supplies;” and specifically, that the CIA ensured the rebels could not get the only weapons of any use against Assad’s massive air war, manpads (portable anti-aircraft weapons).

Indeed, this last point turned out to be by far the most crucial result of this entire episode of US intervention: according to a report by Nour Malas in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443684104578062842929673074.html) “the Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border” precisely after more weapons began to flow in to the rebels in mid-2012, especially small numbers of portable anti-aircraft weapons (Manpads), some from Libya, “smuggled into the country through the Turkish border”, others “supplied by militant Palestinian factions now supporting the Syrian uprising and smuggled in through the Lebanese border”, or some even bought from regime forces. “In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.”

I’ve dissected these reports in more detail here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/yet-again-on-those-hoary-old-allegations-that-the-us-has-armed-the-fsa-since-2012/.

What was the British role in Jordan?

What of the Guardian on 8 March 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/08/west-training-syrian-rebels-jordan)? Finally, this one does talk about a British role. The article begins:

“Western (including British – MK) training of Syrian rebels is under way in Jordan in an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad’s fall.” The alleged training was “focused on senior Syrian army officers who defected.”

The article says the UK Ministry of Defence denied providing military training to the rebels, but claimed instead they have been training the Jordanian military, but the Guardian had “been told” that British intelligence were providing the rebels “logistical and other advice in some form.”

There had been “no “green light” for the rebel forces being trained to be sent into Syria.” That is because their purpose was not to fight the regime. Rather, “they would be deployed if there were signs of a complete collapse of public services in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, which could trigger a million more Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan, which is reeling under the strain of accommodating the 320,000 who have already sought shelter there. The aim of sending western-trained rebels over the border would be to create a safe area for refugees on the Syrian side of the border, to prevent chaos and to provide a counterweight to al-Qaida-linked extremists who have become a powerful force in the north.”

Regarding Jordan’s interest in all this, the article noted that “for the first two years of the Syrian civil war, Jordan has sought to stay out of the fray, fearing a backlash from Damascus and an influx of extremists that would destabilise the precariously balanced kingdom.” However, there has been a tactical shift precisely because “Islamist forces have been gaining steam in the north and Jordan is keen to avoid that in the south. Having been very hands-off, they now see that they have to do something in the south.”

To sum up again: there was a British role in Jordan; it was explicitly to support “secular” groups and “defected Syrian army officers” in the south to balance them against the “Islamist” or “al-Qaida” forces gaining strength in the north; there was nothing whatsoever about supplying arms; and the purpose of training a small core of western-leaning military officers in Jordan was to help fill a catastrophic vacuum in case the Assad regime collapsed. There is a very clear fear of such a collapse in the article.

The other article mentioned (The Red Line and the Rat Line http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line) is Seymour Hersh’s widely discredited attempt to claim the Assad regime did not launch a chemical attack on rebel-held Damascus suburbs in August 2013 and that instead the rebels, supplied by Turkey, gassed their own children to death. Hersh’s entire story relies on the alleged testimony of an unnamed source in the US intelligence community. What it says on this “rat-line” issue likely has about the same amount of credibility. The significant addition to the above New York Times stories is Hersh’s assertion that “the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.” Hersh is the only source that makes such a claim; but he is unable to verify it for us because the whole alleged agreement is in a secret annex to a Senate Intelligence Committee report that only a few people have ever seen. It is therefore difficult to know what to make of any of this.

For good measure, Hersh adds “many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.” Of course he provides not a shred of evidence for this and it appears more a statement of ideology than fact. Ironically, he later notes that the US quit this rat-line because it got concerned that Turkey and Qatar were letting Islamists get some of the arms and even that, heaven forbid, some manpads may have got through to the rebels, at least in this instance agreeing with all other sources regarding the US view of Islamists.

From all these articles – and from a wealth of others I have read – I can say with confidence that Milne’s assertion that Britain had been involved in the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale” to Syrian rebels is entirely made up; actually no evidence of any arms being supplied by the US, let alone Britain, appears anywhere. But to the extent any kind of “training” or logistical help occurred, or to the extent that the US allowed other countries to supply a certain amount of light arms, in every case it was to some described as secular or defected Syrian military with the specific objective of blocking any Islamist forces, and especially al-Qaida.

The absolute discontinuity between the US, the FSA and Nusra

Now getting to the next main question: who is Gildo charged with joining in Syria? While it is difficult to get clear information, it seems “the group he had joined, Kataib al-Muhajireen, had gone on to work with Jabhat al-Nusra,” that is, the Syrian al-Qaida group
(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3105884/Terror-suspect-Bherlin-Gildo-freed-intelligence-services-refuse-hand-evidence.html). At that time, late 2012, Nusra was only just emerging from the shadows, till then mainly known for a string of car bombings. From the outset, its relationship with the mainstream rebels of the Free Syrian Army was difficult; a range of more moderate to hard-line Islamist militia stood between them, but on the whole were more closely allied with the FSA than with Nusra.

Clearly, the group Gildo joined was exactly the group that the US and UK were most concerned with attempting to thwart, with blocking arms from getting to, according to all the relevant articles. And in fact it went beyond this.

In late 2012, US officials met with FSA leaders, the latter trying to see if it was possible to get any US arms for their fight against the fascist regime. However, the Americans only seemed interested in getting information about Nusra, and then surprised the FSA with the demand that it turn its guns on Nusra if it wanted any US arms. When the FSA rebels said their current priority was fighting the regime, the US agents told them they had to fight Nusra now, and worry about the regime later (http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/americas-hidden-agenda-in-syrias-war).

In the awkward world of anti-Syrian revolution conspiracy theory, the FSA and other Syrian rebels are “US-backed jihadists.” To deal with the “US-backed” part first, while they are entitled to try to get arms from whoever they can, it is notable that the FSA rejected this US condition for getting arms, understanding it to be what it was: not an expression of US preference for secular rebels, nor any honest move to arm them, but rather an attempt to get the democratic-secular and jihadist wings of the uprising to slaughter each other while the Assad regime laughs. And given that Nusra had already demonstrated some prowess in fighting the regime, and the US had provided nothing, when in December 2012 the US declared Nusra a terrorist organisation, demonstrations broke out in Syrian cities declaring “we are all Nusra” (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Dec-14/198527-syrian-protesters-slam-us-blacklisting-of-jihadist-group.ashx#axzz2F62w5Yns). And two years later, when the US began bombing ISIS, but also immediately bombed Nusra but left the regime alone to continue its mass murder, the FSA defended Nusra against US bombing and most major rebel groups condemned the US intervention as an attack on the revolution (https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/syrian-rebels-overwhelmingly-condemn-us-bombing-as-an-attack-on-revolution/). So much for the FSA being “US proxies” and so on.

However, did this slogan “we are all Nusra” prove the Syrian rebellion was all “jihadist”? In reality, this slogan was merely a declaration of rejection of US imperialism’s attempts to set conditions on the uprising. The reality was very different from the slogan; the first half of 2013 was continually punctured by FSA armed clashes with Nusra throughout Syria. But these were not attempts by the FSA to do the US bidding to launch an all-out offensive against Nusra; on the contrary, they were either defensive actions against Nusra attacks or actions to defend local people in revolutionary areas against Nusra attempts to impose theocratic repression.

For example, on June 19, 2013 in Jabal al-Wastani in Idlib, Nusra fighters assassinated two civilians in the village of al-Hamama, accusing of owning a bar, and tried to arrest someone, who they accused of working for the regime, in another village. Fighters from the National Unity Brigade of the FSA prevented their entry, telling them it was the court’s jurisdiction to investigate. The FSA then gathered 7 battalions and forced Nusra out of the area. Following this, ten brigades formed an alliance against the jihadists and when Nusra returned to try to force a checkpoint in another village on July 2, they were arrested (http://www.arab-reform.net/empowering-democratic-resistance-syria).

And so what we are left with from this attempt to impose amalgam theory to the US or British governments, the FSA and mainstream Syrian rebels, and al-Nusra, is exactly nothing.

What does any of this have to do with “the rise of ISIS”?

Yet even more intriguing is what any of this could possibly have to do with “the rise of ISIS.” Because whether we are talking about the FSA, Islamist rebels, or al-Nusra, all of them have played a prominent role in fighting ISIS – actually the most prominent role of any armed forces in either Syria or Iraq, and certainly far more prominent than the Assad regime.

Indeed, one reason why we could even talk about the FSA and Nusra fighting in the same trench, following the clashes in the first half of 2013, is precisely because the rise of ISIS forced all Syrian rebels together in order to fight to the death against the now double (and essentially allied) fascist threat of the Assad regime and ISIS.

ISIS was after all not part of any Syrian rebellion, but rather an invasion from across the Iraqi border – simply the new name of “al-Qaida in Iraq.” When it openly split with its Nusra child in mid-2013, it was a fairly straightforward result of the Syrianisation of the ranks of Nusra, as many rebels with no commitment to jihadist ideology joined an organisation with more arms and money, which it could get due to the open Iraqi border. This in turn somewhat moderated Nusra’s practice. By exactly the same token, as the split meant ISIS was now even more dominated by Iraqis and global-jihadists with no relationship to the Syrian masses, and owing their very existence in Syria to the organisation, ISIS’ practice moved from extremely repressive to openly barbaric.

Thus the FSA clashes with Nusra largely ended by mid-2013 but instead a more or less open war began with ISIS from at least July, especially following ISIS’ assassination of an FSA officer, the first of countless. In January 2014, all the mainstream Islamist groups, and Nusra, joined the FSA’s open offensive which drove ISIS out of the whole of western Syria and even significant parts of the east (even briefly Raqqa itself). Once again, this war was launched by the Syrian revolutionary forces based in their own decision-making regarding the threat posed by ISIS to the revolution; it had nothing whatever to do with following US encouragement or orders; they still saw their main enemy as the regime.

In contrast, as is well-known, the Assad regime never managed to drive ISIS out of anywhere at all, and the regime and ISIS both largely avoided hitting each other and instead concentrated all their fire on the Syrian rebels (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/syria-isis-have-been-ignoring-each-other-battlefield-data-suggests-n264551), sometimes even jointly (eg, Deir Ezzor July 2014, today in Aleppo). The only time the Syrian regime began bombing ISIS (or at least civilians in ISIS-ruled areas) was after the US began bombing ISIS in Syria since September 2014, as the regime shows its worth to the bogus US “war on terror.” And since then, the regime and the US intervention have essentially been allies, including joint bombing of cities (especially Raqqa, eg http://leftfootforward.org/2014/12/raqqa-to-appease-iran-obama-gives-assads-air-force-a-free-pass-for-slaughter/ and http://aranews.net/2015/05/u-s-and-syrian-warplanes-launch-simultaneous-strikes-against-isis-in-raqqa/), the explicit intervention of US bombing to save the Assad regime’s control of Deir Ezzor airport from ISIS later in 2014, and US bombing of Nusra and other non-ISIS opponents of the Assad regime.

Given all this, what does either the alleged (extremely limited) western aid to the secular rebels, or Gildo’s membership of Nusra, have to do with the rise of ISIS, the enemy of both? And the answer again is absolutely nothing.

The famous DIA document

Of course this was rather a long way of answering one “example,” but that’s because such illogical “examples” are continually used to slander the magnificent Syrian people’s uprising as either an American plot or a jihadist war or, more commonly and absurdly, both. So I just wanted to get a few things established before dealing with the second part. Milne claims:

“A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.”

Milne then comments that this is “pretty well exactly what happened two years later” … a year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.”

One of the best refutations I have seen of this interpretation of the DIA document was by the excellent ‘magpie’ site at https://magpie68.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/who-are-the-real-godfathers-of-isis/. Below I will give a few thoughts of my own, largely in agreement with this view.

First I might just correct part of Milne’s presentation of the document. It does not exactly claim that al-Qaida in Iraq and “fellow Salafists” were the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” It claims “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI” are the major driving forces. But either way, what this tells us is that this is hardly the declaration of an “intelligence” organisation such as the DIA, which would know better than this. Dated August 2012, the rebellion was then overwhelmingly dominated by the FSA; several Islamist militia had been set up but were far from being the “driving force” at that stage; the Muslim Brotherhood was and is overwhelmingly an exile-based organisation, but even Qatar’s attempt to insert the MB into the rebellion only really began around mid-2012; and AQI was entirely marginal. Regardless of how one assesses the evolution of these factors later, there is simply no evidence in the factual record for such an assessment at that time.

So, if they could get it so wrong, what does this tell us?

It is first important to look at the actual document (http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf), and not word documents that have transcribed it. The first thing one will notice is that the first couple of pages, and sporadically elsewhere, are heavily “redacted,” that is, the DIA is protecting confidential sources. In other words this is not an expression of the DIA’s opinion, but “information” being given to the DIA by some source. Indeed, the second thing to notice is that it proclaims itself to be “information report: not finally evaluated intelligence;” one would think that was clear enough. A third noticeable aspect is the clear concern with the security of Iraq, with the Iraq-Syria border, and with the danger posed by the AQI.

This strongly suggests an informant from the Iraqi regime. And the interesting thing about the Iraqi regime is that it bridges being a US satellite derived from the US invasion and being an Iranian satellite allied to the Assad regime and which tends to talk with the same story, such as vague assertions about unnamed “western countries” supporting the “opposition.”

Incidentally, the idea that this vague claim about “western countries” supporting the “opposition” means US support for AQI is quite a stretch – it would indeed be interesting to see the US Defence Department declaring its support for al-Qaida; it is simply not what is being said.

Now even when we deal with what the (probably) Iraqi informant is telling the DIA, it doesn’t exactly say what Milne and the entire Assadophilic cybersphere wants it to say. Where the informant claims that opposition forces are trying to control eastern Syria (Hasake and Deir Ezzor) and that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts,” it is somewhat unclear if the informant is talking of the present or the future, since the grammar (like elsewhere in the “intelligence” document), is so bad: because this is listed under the sub-heading of “the future assumptions of the crisis,” where the first such “assumption” is the survival of the Assad regime, and the quote above is part of the second “future assumption” that the situation develops into “a proxy war.” In fact, in the text, the alleged support from western and other countries is also called a “hypothesis” and even this is based on the idea that “safe havens under international sheltering” will be set up – a weird “hypothesis” given the fact that this was never on the agenda of the US or other “western countries” and still isn’t.

Moreover when it comes to the effects on Iraq, the document expresses how alarmed the source is about this dangerous situation, a view almost certainly shared by the DIA. The fact that the FSA (the only time the document mentions it) had taken over parts of the Syrian-Iraqi border is presented as “a dangerous and serious threat” since the border is “not guarded by official elements” (ie, the Assad regime). And it is in the context of this dangerous situation, of “the situation unravelling,” that the informant raises the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria” – from the context, the informant sees that as part of this “dangerous and serious threat,” rather than advocating such a possibility, indeed they go straight on to discuss the “dire consequences” of this, including the possibility of AQI declaring an Islamic state across Syria and Iraq which would create a “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity!

Small wonder then that when the US finally did intervene in Iraq and Syria in 2014, it was to bomb this Islamic State, even if Milne thinks the US is not bombing it enough. It must be so difficult for the Assadophilic “left” to see, day after day, that the US is not only not bombing the greatest purveyor of massive violence in the region – the Assad regime – but in addition is sharing intelligence with Assad, sometimes launching joint bombing of ISIS—ruled territories and civilians with Assad, and also bombing other, non-ISIS, opponents of Assad, especially Nusra, but also even the Islamic Front.

Comment by Gilbert Achcar:


My final point on the DIA document is to just quote a response from Gilbert Achcar:

  1. Much surprised that an “intelligence” report would in the most banal way describe the geography and ethnography (THE POPULATION LIVING ON THE BORDER HAS A SOCIAL-TRIBAL STYLE, WHICH IS BOUND BY STRONG TRIBAL AND FAMILIAL MARITAL TIES) of the border area in a region that was under US occupation for nine years, and from which the US had completed withdrawal less than one year earlier. Reads as if the report is based on a loose talk by an “informant” and written by a novice.
  2. The document formulates a *HYPOTHESIS*:

Since the *hypothesis* is predicated on the view that “Western countries” are preparing a repetition of the Libyan scenario, it is clear that the “informant” is closer to the opposite side (most probably, the Iraqi government) than to those to whom he (certainly not a she in the context!) attributes this intention.

  1. It is against the backdrop of this much biased and flawed hypothesis-making that one should read the “sensational” statement:
  2. The assumption that this is an Iraqi government source is confirmed by statements like this one: THE IRAQI BORDER GUARD FORCES ARE FACING A BORDER WITH SYRIA THAT IS NOT GUARDED BY OFFICIAL ELEMENTS WHICH PRESENTS A DANGEROUS AND SERIOUS THREAT.

Actually the whole document reads very clearly like one coming from a source from within the Iraqi government, or close to it. Basing “revelations” on this is like taking a “secret” report by a source close to the Syrian regime as a proof of what the Syrian opposition had in mind. No surprise that it is “NOT FINALLY EVALUATED INTELLIGENCE”. It is actually just worthless rubbish of the kind the files of the “intelligence” services are full of.

(end of Achcar’s comment)


ISIS of course is an arch-enemy of the Syrian revolution, so ironically enough, as a supporter of this revolution, it might actually serve my purposes to also go all conspiratorial and assert that “US imperialism created ISIS,” not to get at the Assad regime of course, but precisely in order to help Assad derail the uprising into a sectarian war. The reasons I oppose this conspiracism are two-fold. First, because I believe basing arguments on facts is better than writing endless bullshit, which should be a severe embarrassment to those on the left promoting it. Secondly, because most of this conspiracism is not motivated by showing that imperialist powers tried to derail the revolution by backing ISIS, but on the contrary, they want to claim that the US and the West “backed ISIS” in order to overthrow the Syrian tyranny, a laughable idea.

In particular, this leads them into these grossly dishonest and fact-free amalgam between ISIS and its arch-enemies among the Syrian revolutionary forces; and hence the continuous assertion, backed by the flimsiest of evidence or none at all, that the US and the West have backed other parts of the Syrian rebellion (something regarded to be bad) is also described as part of the how the West allegedly helped “fuel the rise of ISIS,” as if the FSA, the force in the region that has most successfully beat back ISIS, is in some way related to ISIS or gave rise to it. And all these forces, not only ISIS, or even Nusra, but all Syrian armed rebellion against the fascist regime are labelled “terrorists” by this “leftist” hasbarra, mimicking the very worst forms of imperialist and Zionist propaganda. This is particularly disgusting slander, especially considering that the big majority of ISIS victims have been Syrian rebel fighters.

Yes, the US created ISIS alright – by invading Iraq and launching an apocalyptic occupation and then bolstering a Shiite-sectarian regime allied with Iran which launched a sectarian war against the Sunni population – yes, this did bolster the most extreme Sunni sectarian forces among the Iraqi resistance, namely al-Qaida in Iraq which became ISIS. Many “anti—imperialists” are at least able to admit this part, because it puts direct blame on the US. Why is it so difficult to see that exactly the same dynamic occurred in Syria, not from some non-existent US invasion, but due to the similar apocalyptic sectarian war the Assad regime waged against the Syrian revolution and also specifically against the Sunni majority, precisely in order to turn the non-sectarian uprising into a sectarian war.

Again: Who are the real Godfathers of ISIS? https://magpie68.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/who-are-the-real-godfathers-of-isis/

Assad is now ISIS’s airforce and the US is Assad’s airforce: The moment the counterrevolution joins hands


Assad is now ISIS’s airforce and the US is Assad’s airforce: The moment the counterrevolution joins hands

Key parts from the attached article below:

1. Even those handful of Syrian fighters (“rebels” is the wrong word since they are individuals, not actual Free Syrian Army groups) that the US has been trying to recruit to fight ISIS (nearly all actual rebels told the US to shove the very idea from the outset) are now rebelling and quitting. I guess, like a lot of pro-Assad “leftists” from the opposite angle, they also never bothered to read every announcement that has ever been made about the program from the outset: that it was very explicitly ONLY to fight ISIS and NOT the fascist regime (eg, see, for the 100th time, the actual CENTCOM announcement of the program: try to even find a mention of Assad:

As the article below states: “The issue: the American government’s demand that the rebels can’t use any of their newfound battlefield
prowess or U.S.-provided weaponry against the army of Bashar al-Assad or any of its manifold proxies and allies, which include Iranian-built militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah. They must only fight ISIS, Washington insists.”

And so since the rebels – who have done more to actually fight ISIS and drive it out of great chunks of Syria than have any other armed force in either Syria or Iraq – know that the main enemy remains the regime, which massacres around 100 people every day, and that in any case it is impossible to defeat a symptom (ISIS) without defeating the cause (Assad), they in their mass never signed up; and the US, always hostile to the actual revolutionary forces like the FSA, never tried to sign up actual FSA brigades, but rather tried to “vet” individual fighters to form a new US-puppet armed force from scratch. But now it is even many of these individual few hundred potential mercs that are quitting: I guess some people are slow.

2. Even more startlingly (not for me, of course, but for anyone who STILL doesn’t get that the US intervened in Syria as Assad’s airforce): Right now, as ISIS, from its base in northeastern Aleppo province, is attacking the revolutionary forces in Aleppo, the Assad regime’s warplanes are directly helping ISIS by bombing the rebels in Aleppo: http://eaworldview.com/2015/06/syria-daily-assads-bombs-aid-islamic-state-offensive-in-aleppo-province/.

So many rebels ask the US: OK, if you say you are here in Syria to defeat ISIS (even though in fact the US spent last week being Assad’s airforce by … bombing Nusra, which is allied to the rebels, in Aleppo …), then why don’t you strike ISIS now that it is besieging Aleppo, just like you bombed ISIS when it was besieging Kobane to help the YPG?

And then the punch-line: the grossly hypocritical and self-perpetuating answer we have come to expect from the US – we can’t help the rebels as long as they are allied with Nusra – was not the one used in this case. This time, the US did us one better: the US said, we can’t bomb ISIS to help the rebels, because if we help the rebels in Aleppo, that would hurt Assad:

“We were rebuffed for the astounding reason that aiding the rebels in Aleppo would hurt Assad, which would anger the Iranians, who might then turn up the heat on U.S. troops in Iraq.” Wow. The problem with helping rebels, even against ISIS, is that it would hurt Assad, and the bigger problem is this in turn would hurt Iran. But in my opinion, while the added on bit about not wanting to get on Iran’s bad side etc is no doubt valid in itself, the quote may as well have stopped with the word “Assad.” Let’s cut to the chase: the US is not bombing Syria to help the armed masses overthrow a capitalist dictatorship, but quite the opposite.

Assad is now ISIS’s airforce, at least in selected parts of Syria, and the US is Assad’s airforce. Conspiracy? Call it whatever you like, the facts have been in our faces all along, and especially since the US began bombing.

That doesn’t have to mean they love each other or that it is a dark and deliberate conspiracy. Counterrevolutionaries can also hate each other: the US does bomb ISIS in eastern Syria, where there are few rebels, and the Assad regime also began bombing ISIS out in the east (or at least bombing civilians in ISIS-ruled areas) after the US began bombing it, in order to show its worth to the bogus US “war on terror” (in the whole year before that, Assad’s warplanes never touched ISIS). The one thing none of them will do however is help the revolutionary masses to stave off one another. This last week or so we are seeing one of the rare moments when not just two (eg Assad and ISIS, or Assad and US) line up – that’s really, really old by now – but all three.

Some of us still use the language of class interests. While not a crystal ball, it generally seems to me to get things right – sometimes astonishingly so in the case of Syria.

Key Rebels Ready to Quit US Fight Vs ISIS

They were ready to accept American guns and training. But a key rebel group can’t accept the Obama administration’s insistence that they lay off Syria’s dictator.
A centerpiece of the U.S. war plan against ISIS is in danger of collapsing. A key rebel commander and his men are ready to ready to pull out in frustration of the U.S. program to train a rebel army to beat back the terror group in Syria, The Daily Beast has learned.
The news comes as ISIS is marching on the suburbs of Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. Rebels currently fighting the jihadists there told The Daily Beast that the U.S.-led coalition isn’t even bothering to respond to their calls for airstrikes to stop the jihadist army.
Mustapha Sejari, one of the rebels already approved for the U.S. training program, told The Daily Beast that he and his 1,000 men are on the verge of withdrawing from the program. The issue: the American government’s demand that the rebels can’t use any of their newfound battlefield prowess or U.S.-provided weaponry against the army of Bashar al-Assad or any of its manifold proxies and allies, which include Iranian-built militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah. They must only fight ISIS, Washington insists.

“We submitted the names of 1,000 fighters for the program, but then we got this request to promise not to use any of our training against Assad,” Sejari, a founding member of the Revolutionary Command Council, said. “It was a Department of Defense liaison officer who relayed this condition to us orally, saying we’d have to sign a form. He told us, ‘We got this money from Congress for a program to fight ISIS only.’ This reason was not convincing for me. So we said no.”
“[My men] don’t want to be beholden to this policy because it can be used against them in Syria—that they’ve betrayed the revolution and now they’re just mercenaries for the coalition forces.”
Sejari’s possible departure wouldn’t just mean the loss of a few fighters for the anti-ISIS army the U.S. is trying to assemble. It could mean a fracturing of the entire program—a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s plan to fight ISIS in Syria. (The Pentagon was unable to respond to requests to comment for this article.)
“The train and equip program will be structurally impaired for as long as those taking part in it are asked to target jihadists first and the regime second,” Charlie Winter, an ISIS specialist at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, told The Daily Beast. “It would be naïve to think otherwise: no opposition group will take kindly to being told that they can only be assisted if they focus their efforts on ‘terrorists’ and not the regime that got Syria to this position in the first place.”
Even worse, Sejari added, is that by openly aligning with the United States as a counterterrorism proxy, his troops will have a bullseye
painted on its back for all comers, al Qaeda, the regime, Iran and Hezbollah. That force, the al-Ezz Front, broke off from Saudi-backed umbrella opposition group that was routed by Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliate, in northern Syria in March.
“[My men] don’t want to be beholden to this policy because it can be used against them in Syria—that they’ve betrayed the revolution and now they’re just mercenaries for the coalition forces,” Sejari said.
Sejari has worked for years with the so-called “joint operations command” in Turkey, where the CIA and a host of Western and regional spy agencies have coordinated with vetted moderate rebels—sometimes arming them, although without the stifling proscription on whom they couldn’t fight. “In the past, we got some support through the [Western-backed] Friends of Syria group. Very small amounts. We were hoping there would be more support from the Americans,” Sefjari said.
“The American intelligence services have a fair idea who the good guys and bad guys are in Syria and they know which groups are fighting both extremism and dictatorship,” Sejari said. “If the Obama administration were sincere in putting an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, they could do that in three months.”
As approved by Congress, the Syrian train-and-equip program would be overseen not by intelligence officers but by the American
military—definitely in Jordan and Turkey, and likely also in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar. But Ankara and Washington have never agreed on the remit of the mission, with Turkey insisting that these rebels be given air support given that they’ll be targets of the regime’s fighter jets and attack helicopters. Although U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has floated the idea of American air support for the rebels publicly, the administration hasn’t committed to that and likely won’t. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama worries that if any of his built-up Arab strike teams go after the regime in Syria, then Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force will instruct its Shia militias to turn their guns on U.S. personnel in Iraq.
The original goal was to graduate 5,000 battle-ready rebels per year, although the program has suffered numerous setbacks and delays since its inception. In early May, Carter told reporters at a Pentagon press conference that just 90 rebels were being put through the first round of training in Jordan. Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for CENTCOM, claimed that 3,700 Syrians had volunteered in total, but of that number just 400 were approved with another 800 were being processed. This followed from an earlier announcement, in April, that Major General Michael Nagata, the man tapped by Obama spearhead train-and-equip, was stepping down for unknown reasons. It doesn’t inspire confidence, Sejari said, that he didn’t know who was in charge of the program he wants nothing to do with anymore. “We don’t know what happened to Gen. Nagata. No one tells us anything,” he added. Sejari said that even if he were to sign up, he doesn’t think the result would greatly alter the balance of power in Syria or further stated U.S. objectives. “If anyone with any military knowledge examines this program, he will realize this program is not designed to make an impact or support the Syrian people. It will only contribute to dragging out this conflict much longer,” Sejari said. “We’ve been fighting for four years. Program, no program— we’ve been fighting for four years. If the Americans don’t change this precondition, we will carry on fighting.”
In another uninspiring development for the Levantine arm of the war, a major rebel commander has told The Daily Beast that no matter how hard he tries, he still cannot get the coalition’s attention for directing airstrikes against ISIS. And that’s allowing the jihadists to make major gains near the city of Aleppo, a stronghold of both moderate and Islamist rebels.
“We were hoping that we could work hand-in-hand with coalition forces to defeat ISIS and that the coalition would launch strikes against ISIS-held positions in northeast Aleppo. We called on them to do so,” Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Saket told The Daily Beast in a May 29 Skype interview.
Al-Saket defected from the Syrian Army in March 2013. He had been an officer in Assad’s chemical weapons division and today heads both the Aleppo Military Council and the Chemical Weapons Documentation Center, which compiles evidence of chlorine gas attacks perpetrated by his former comrades on Syrian civilians.
“For the past 24 hours, numerous towns in the northern Aleppo suburbs have been under constant bombardment by Daesh,” al-Shaket said, using a derogatory name for ISIS. “The jihadists captured Sarwan, a key town, and is now advancing on two others including Marea, the nerve center for the rebel groups in Aleppo. The fall of Marea would severely weaken our capacity across the province. Hundreds of shells have rained on houses in Sawran and Marea. Ninety percent of the civilians in Marea had to flee to neighboring areas because their houses were destroyed. The terrorism carried out by ISIS is not very different from the terrorism being carried out by Assad.”
And in some ways, Assad’s Syria Arab Army (SAA) and ISIS are helping one another around Aleppo, where the regime is reported bombing rebel positions. “By attacking opposition positions around northern Aleppo, ISIS has granted the Assad regime a tactical opportunity, one that it has already begun exploiting,” Winter said. “This is not the first time the SAA and ISIS have benefited each other, and it will not be the last.”
For weeks, al-Saket has made numerous media appearances in Arabic-language outlets such as Al Jazeera and Orient TV calling for close coordination between his rebels and the coalition. He said he has precise coordinates for ISIS-controlled installations and materiel in towns such as Raei, Manbej, al-Bab in the Aleppo suburbs. But so far, no one from U.S. Central Command—the arm of the American military responsible for the Middle East—has reached out to him.
ISIS launched their assault on northern Aleppo before the weekend, apparently after it caught wind of a the Syrian opposition’s plan to retake the rest of the province from the Assad regime, putting it in control of key supply corridors currently trafficked by ISIS.
The rebels’ idea is to replicate the success of Jaysh al-Fateh, a
consortium of Islamist and jihadist rebel groups, largely led by al-Nusra, which has had stunning successful in driving the regime out of Idlib province over the past month. Al-Saket said that while al-Nusra is not part of forces under his command, there was no denying that the al Qaeda franchise was also at war with ISIS in the province. “If ISIS is able to capture all the northern suburbs of Aleppo, that would mean they’d control the borders with Turkey. I don’t have to tell you what this means for the rebels.”
As al-Saket spoke to The Beast, he was interrupted by a fresh intelligence report from his field commanders saying that that white cars with blue covers were currently en route from Dabiq, an
ISIS-controlled town in northern Aleppo, toward Hetemlat whence they’d no doubt proceed onto Marea. The cars were outfitted with explosives and driven by ISIS suicide bombers.
“The Syrian-American community asked the Obama dministration for airstrikes on ISIS near Marea many months ago,” complained Mohammed al-Ghanem, the senior political advisor for the Syrian American Council, a Washington, D.C.-based opposition group in constant contact with the Aleppo Military Council. “We were rebuffed for the astounding reason that aiding the rebels in Aleppo would hurt Assad, which would anger the Iranians, who might then turn up the heat on U.S. troops in Iraq. The rebels are the only ones who can fight ISIS in northern Syria—Assad forces are losing ground rather quickly now—so I hope President Obama will reconsider his willingness to compromise the ISIS fight for the sake of an Iran deal.”
“ISIS is a metastasizing threat, not just for Syria but for the world,” al-Saket agreed, before hanging up to tend to the incoming car bombs.