FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Obama and Al-Qaeda Became Syrian Bedfellows

by SHAMUS COOKE

For a president that is executing Bush’s “war on terror” against Al-Qaeda and “its affiliates,” it seems odd that President Obama has targeted the secular Syrian government for “regime change.”

Equally odd is that Obama’s strongest military ally on the ground in Syria- the best equipped and effective fighting force against the Syrian Government — is Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has affiliated itself with  al-Qaeda, and aims to turn Syria into an extremist Islamic state that enforces a fundamentalist version of Sharia law.

It’s difficult to know exactly how al-Nursa received its guns, but one can make an educated guess. For example, The New York Times explained in detail how the CIA has been in a massive arms trafficking operation that has already funneled thousands of tons of guns from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syria:

“The C.I.A. role in facilitating the [weapons] shipments… gave the United States a degree of influence over the process [of weapon distribution]…American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the [weapons] shipments.”

Where are the guns winding up in this massive arms trafficking operation? An important question to ask is: which rebels in Syria have guns and which ones don’t.  The Guardian reports:

“The [secular] Free Syrian Army’s shortage of weapons and other resources compared with [jihadist] Jabhat al-Nusra is a recurrent theme… ‘If you join al-Nusra, there is always a gun for you but many of the FSA brigades can’t even provide bullets for their fighters,’…3,000 FSA [Free Syrian Army] men have joined al-Nusra in the last few months, mainly because of a lack of weapons and ammunition…Al-Nusra fighters rarely withdraw for shortage of ammunition…”

While it’s difficult to know if CIA trafficked guns are going directly or indirectly to al-Nursa, it’s extremely likely that these guns are going directly into the hands of ideological cousins of al-Nursa, since the Syrian rebels are completely dominated by Islamic extremists.

For example, when the Economist magazine was outlining the most important fighting groups in Syria, “Who’s Who in the Syrian Battlefield,” they noted with regret that the only important non-Islamist group was in the Kurdish areas, which is virtually an autonomous zone. As far as the secular U.S.-backed fighting group, The Supreme Military Command, the Economist conceded it “has little control on the ground.” Keep in mind that the Economist is very much in favor of a U.S.-NATO military intervention in Syria.

The New York Times also confirmed the complete dominance of extremists on the rebel side:

“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”

Thus, the minority of secular rebel fighters are not leading the civil war and will not be in power if Assad falls. Instead, honest Syrian revolutionaries will instantly fall victim to the extremists, who will immediately proceed to a mopping-up mission of their former allies.

It’s now clear that Obama’s foreign policy in Syria is actively encouraging terrorism. Many rebel-controlled areas in Syria are now new safe havens for terrorists, and there have been hundreds of terrorist bombing attacks against the Syrian government, many of which have targeted civilian areas.

While the U.S. is pouring arms into the jihadist-controlled areas, they have also downplayed the atrocities committed by these rebels, which are well documented on Youtube and include a multitude of war crimes that include beheadings, group execution of prisoners, ethnic cleansing, and the recent episode where a famous rebel commander was videotaped mutilating a dead Syrian solider and eating his heart.

By minimizing this barbarism the Obama administration ensures that it will continue, since the extremists are empowered by U.S. support and are shielded in the U.S. media and protected from international political pressures.

One question the U.S. media never thinks of asking is: Where did all these Islamic extremists come from and why? The Sunni Islamic opposition inside Syria has long been religiously moderate, implying that many of the extremists are foreigners.

The ideological source of this extremism came from Saudi Arabian religious figures and their allies, who use Islam as a political tool to target nations “unfriendly” to Saudi Arabia and the United States. The most glaring example of this in regard to Syria was the Fatwa (official interpretation/statement) issued by 107 Islamic scholars that denounced the Syrian government and encouraged Muslims to fight against it. The statement essentially encouraged jihad, though the word wasn’t mentioned explicitly.

The statement includes:

“It is a duty for all Muslims to support the revolutionaries in Syria [against the government] … so that they can successfully complete their revolution and attain their rights and their freedom.”

The hypocrisy of such a statement is almost too glaring: the many Saudi figures who signed the document that want “freedom” in Syria are not demanding freedom in Saudi Arabia, by far the country with the least amount of freedoms in the world.

With Saudi Arabia and Qatar providing guns to the Syrian rebels — with help from the CIA — the Saudi religious figures attached to the Saudi regime give religious/political support by misleading devout Muslims to flock to Syria to attack a country of Muslims, thus creating the giant sectarian divisions we now see throughout the Islamic world.

The vast majority of this Islamic sectarian warfare is exported by Saudi Arabia, which funds radical Islamic schools all over the Middle East that attract the downtrodden of these countries by providing basic social services that the host country is too poor — or unwilling — to provide.  There is an informative chapter on this dynamic in Vijay Prashad’s excellent book, A People’s History of the Third World.

Now the debate among U.S.-NATO countries is whether to give more sophisticated weaponry to the extremist-dominated rebels in Syria. The Obama Administration is pressuring the European Union to drop its arms embargo on Syria so that a new torrent of weapons can flood the country (apparently the CIA operations haven’t yet completely drenched Syria with guns).

In response to the “drop the embargo” discussion, Oxfam intelligently responded by saying:

“Sending arms to the Syrian opposition won’t create a level playing field. Instead, it risks further fueling an arms free-for-all where the victims are the civilians of Syria. Our experience from other conflict zones tells us that this crisis will only drag on for far longer if more and more arms are poured into the country.”

One EU diplomat gave a scathing rebuke to the Obama Administration’s claim that it could ensure that new weapons wouldn’t wind up in “the wrong hands” in Syria:

“It would be the first conflict where we pretend we could create peace by delivering arms,” the diplomat said. “If you pretend to know where the weapons will end up, then it would be the first war in history where this is possible. We have seen it in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear; they pop up where they are needed.”

In Syria the weapons are needed by those doing the brunt of the fighting. Again, the al-Nursa extremists are widely acknowledged to be the most effective fighting force against the Syrian government, the guns will thus flow to them.

Obama has taken the saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” to irrational heights, and in so doing is helping to produce a new generation of Islamic extremists that will help fuel the U.S.-led never-ending “war on terror.” The real intention of the War on Terror is not to stop terrorists, but to target nation states that are opposed to U.S. foreign policy: Iraq and Libya — like Syria — were both secular countries at the time of their being invaded; Afghanistan was invaded even though the vast majority of those involved in the 9-11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. There was no terrorist problem in Iraq before the U.S. invaded, just like there was no terrorist problem in Syria before the U.S.-backed rebels came onto the scene.

It’s blatantly obvious to most Americans that Syria and Iran are at the top of Obama’s war list, a much higher priority than any terrorist group. This is why Obama is tolerating the terrorist groups inside Syira; they are being used as tools against his real target, Syria and then Iran.

The Syrian people must be left to themselves to decide their future. The United States is utterly incapable of “helping” countries by using military means, as the fractured nations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya painfully prove. The global anti-war movement must demand Hands Off Syria!

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)  He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail