Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Those old enough to remember when President Clinton's penis was a big news item will also remember the "Peace Dividend," that the world was going to be able to cash now that that nasty cold war was over. But guess what? Those spies didn't want to come in from the Cold, so while the planet is heating up, the political environment is dropping to sub-zero temperatures. It's deja vu all over again.

Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:53 am

PRACTICE OF BEHEADING NOT LIMITED TO ISLAMIC STATE
by Jonathan Zimmerman
Los Angeles Times Op-Ed
September 28, 2014
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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"Now everyone knows about the airborne interrogation -- taking three people up in a chopper, taking one guy and saying, 'Talk,' then throwing him out before he even gets the chance to open his mouth. Well, we wrapped det [detonator] cord around their necks and wired them to the detonator box. And basically what it did was blow their heads off. The interrogator would tell the translator, usually a South Vietnamese intelligence officer, 'Ask him this.' He'd ask him, 'Who gave you the gun?' And the guy would start to answer, or maybe he wouldn't -- maybe he'd resist -- but the general idea was to waste the first two. They planned the snatches that way. Pick up this guy because we're pretty sure he's VC cadre -- these other two guys just run errands for him. Or maybe they're nobody; Tran, the farmer, and his brother Nguyen. But bring in two. Put them in a row. By the time you get to your man, he's talking so fast you got to pop the weasel just to shut him up." After a moment's silence he added, "I guess you could say that we wrote the book on terror." ...

How the Senate hearings came to address Phoenix is unusual. It concerns Francis Reitemeyer, a Seton Hall Divinity School dropout who was drafted and attended officer candidate school in late 1968. Along with forty other air defense artillery officers, Reitemeyer was trained at Fort Holabird for duty as a Phoenix coordinator in Vietnam. He was appalled by the instruction he received from veteran Phoenix advisers. Loath to participate in what he considered a program that targeted civilians for assassination, Reitemeyer approached American Civil Liberties Union lawyer William Zinman in November 1968. On behalf of Reitemeyer, Zinman filed a petition for conscientious objector status in U.S. District Court on February 14, 1969, while the rest of Reitemeyer's class was departing for Vietnam.

In the petition Reitemeyer said that he was told that he would supervise and fund eighteen mercenaries "who would be explicitly directed by him" to "find, capture and/or kill" as many VCI as possible within a given area. The VCI were defined as "any male or female of any age in a position of authority or influence in the village who were politically loyal or simply in agreement with the VC or their objectives." Reitemeyer was told that he would be required to maintain a "kill quota" of fifty bodies per month and that for him to locate VCI, "resort to the most extreme forms of torture was necessary." As an example of what was expected of him, Reitemeyer was told of one VCI suspect being killed by "said mercenaries and thereafter decapitated and dismembered so that the eyes, head, ears and other parts of the decedent's body were displayed on his front lawn as a warning and an inducement to other VC sympathizers, to disclose their identity and turn themselves in to the Advisor and the mercenaries."

Reitemeyer was told that Phoenix "sought to accomplish through capture, intimidation, elimination and assassination what the U.S., up to this time, was unable to accomplish through the ... use of military power." The Vietnamese were characterized in racist terms, so that the cruelties perpetrated upon them might be more easily rationalized. Reitemeyer was told that if captured, he could be tried for war crimes under "precedents established by the Nuremberg Trials as well as ... the Geneva Convention."

On the basis of this account of his Phoenix instruction, Reitemeyer was granted conscientious objector status on July 14, 1969. The Army filed an appeal but, for public relations purposes, withdrew it in October, just as the March Against Death was getting under way.

-- The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine


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An Indonesian journalist holds flowers as she sits in front of a banner during a protest in Jakarta against the killing of journalists by Islamic State. (Mast Irham / EPA)

In 1623, just two years after Native Americans and Pilgrims dined together at the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrim commander Myles Standish decapitated an enemy Indian chieftain and impaled his head on a pike outside of the Plymouth fort.

That's the part we typically omit from our Thanksgiving myth, which emphasizes interracial harmony instead of violence. And we certainly don't like to remember that our forefathers practiced beheading, especially when we're faced with an enemy that still engages in it.

After two American journalists were beheaded by Islamic State fighters, President Obama vowed to dismantle the organization, and has joined with five Arab allies to launch airstrikes on Islamic State targets.

But one of our allies, Saudi Arabia, still practices beheading. So does the Free Syrian Army, whom Obama pledged to assist in its battle to unseat dictator Bashar Assad. Unlike Assad's "extremist" foes, the argument goes, the Free Syrian Army is a "moderate" force. But it still beheaded six captives in September.

Shortly after the Committee-B'nai B'rith mission left Washington, Hull dispatched a cable to George A. Gordon, America's charge d'affaires in Germany: "Public opinion in this country continues alarmed at the persistent press reports of mistreatment of Jews in Germany .... I am of the opinion that outside intercession has rarely produced the results desired and has frequently aggravated the situation. Nevertheless, if you perceive any way in which this government could usefully be of assistance, I should appreciate your frank and confidential advice. On Monday next [March 27] there is to be held in New York a monster mass meeting. If prior to that date an amelioration in the situation has taken place, which you could report [for] ... release to the press, together with public assurances by Hitler and other leaders, it would have a calming effect." [48] In essence, Hull was asking for an encouraging report -- justified or not -- to soothe angry Jewish groups. Thus, he could cooperate with the Committee request as well.

Within twenty-four hours, Gordon composed a response to Hull: "I entirely agree with your view ... [of] the present situation of outside intercession. ... There is ... one suggestion I venture to make in case you have already not thought of it. . . . [T]he general tenor of communications between foreigners and the ... government here has necessarily been one of complaint and protest, and it is possible that if ... confidence [were expressed] in Hitler's determination to restore peaceful and normal conditions, emphasizing what a great place he will achieve in the estimation of the world if he is able to bring it about, it might have a helpful effect.... Hitler now represents the element of moderation in the Nazi Party and I believe that if in any way you can strengthen his hand, even indirectly, he would welcome it." [49]

--The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, by Edwin Black


Indeed, beheading is as old as human civilization itself. So it also reminds us how close we remain to savagery, which is what makes decapitation so repulsive and alluring at the same time. We don't want to behold our own brutal natures. But we also can't look away, as the millions of YouTube hits illustrate.

The ancient Celts hung enemies' severed heads from horses' necks or nailed them to the front of their homes. The heads of important rival leaders were preserved in cedar oil and displayed to admiring guests.

To the conquering Romans, such rituals marked the Celts as uncivilized. But that gave the Romans license to behead Celts, who allegedly lay so far outside of human decency that its norms did not apply to them.

With the rise of nation-states, meanwhile, beheading became a force of political repression as well as revolution. As Scottish nationalists reminded voters in the recent failed referendum for independence, English monarchs routinely beheaded Irish and Scottish challengers to their rule. But in 1649, King Charles I was himself beheaded. By decapitating the sovereign head of state, the people proclaimed their own sovereignty.

That's also what happened in the French Revolution, of course, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were both executed by a new beheading machine: the guillotine. Named after the French doctor who suggested it, the guillotine promised a more "humane" and efficient method of decapitation than the ax.

To horrified observers like England's Edmund Burke, however, the guillotine symbolized the brutality and instability that popular revolt unleashed. Marching in parades with their victims' heads on spikes, the French crowds reminded Burke of nothing so much as "a procession of American savages" — that is, of Native Americans — displaying enemy scalps.

By the late 1800s, as empires spread their reach, white Europeans and North Americans came to associate beheading almost exclusively with the racial or cultural "other." Never mind that Indians were themselves beheaded by whites, or that the French didn't outlaw the guillotine until 1977.

Americans continued to decapitate its foes too, using the same rationale as the Romans did: Some people are so savage that the rules of civilization don't apply to them. American troops decapitated a Japanese soldier in 1945 and propped his head on their tank for a picture. Troops did the same thing to an Iraqi soldier in 1991. But this time, Life magazine — which had declined to publish the World War II photo — put the new picture on its cover.

And the victim's eyes were pointed at us. Condemning Islamic State on Wednesday, President Obama said it "forces us to look into the heart of darkness." The allusion was to Joseph Conrad's classic 1899 novel, in which a deranged white colonist in Africa erects human heads on the fence around his house.

To Conrad, writing at the height of imperialism, the heads showed how whites could regress into the barbarism of the lesser races. Today, we know better — or we should. The savagery that you see on those YouTube videos isn't just in Islamic State, or in some other enemy that you fear and despise. It's in you too.

Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of "Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education," which will be published next year by Princeton University Press.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:55 am

The Most Important Scene Is Missing From The James Foley Beheading Video… Why Did ISIS Censor Itself?
By DNA
September 2, 2014

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The video reportedly showing the death of James Foley is resulting in an increasing drum beat for US military attacks in Iraq and Syria, but there are some strange features of the video that are being largely ignored by the media and that raise questions about the origin and purpose of the video.

The reported death of journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (IS) is resulting in increasing calls for war not only in Iraq but in Syria, with the Obama administration saying it is considering such attacks. The video of Foley’s death on which these calls for war are in part based has largely been scrubbed from the web. This article reviews the video and questions raised by it. But, we also want to emphasize that the video is only part of the story, another that should not be ignored is who is behind IS. The story is more complex than we are being told.

The death of journalist James Foley spread across the traditional and social media with headlines such as “Video Shows Beheading of American Journalist” published in TIME. And the TIME article declared, “TIME is not publishing the video.” Perhaps in response to widespread concern of assisting ISIS in its propaganda distribution.

There were also responses to the posting and sharing of this video as it was apparently so gruesome that publicizing or even watching the video could get you slapped with a terrorism charge in the UK. If that wasn’t enough, Twitter and Facebook were trying to find people who posted the video and delete their accounts… something that Glenn Greenwald was clearly and rightly concerned may have the down stream consequences of corporate-censored communications.

Now that the video is one of the reasons for escalating war talk, it is important that people view it and examine whether the stories we are being told are true. The fundamental questions are whether IS conducted the murder of Foley and whether his murder was assisted in any way by the United States or its allies.

The Video

Popular Resistance does not endorse the heinous acts of the people who killed James Foley. These links are not provided to show any disrespect for James Foley, someone who by all accounts lived a courageous and positive life, and did a lot of good in the world. You should be advised that this video is graphic.

http://topinfopost.com/2014/09/02/the-m ... sor-itself

The video shows a lot about IS, how they design their propaganda and how they link their actions to US foreign policy by including the initial clip of President Obama’s announcement to resume military attacks in Iraq. The speeches by Foley and the purported IS member add to the propaganda purposes of the video.

The most interesting thing about the video is that despite the hype in the media, there was no actual beheading in the video. The TIME article headline was not an accurate description of the video. There was a dead body that was, as many in the media have said, “purportedly” a beheaded James Foley, but the actual act of beheading is not shown. The video does show someone purportedly using a knife to saw at Foley’s neck, but there is no blood and seems to be no actual cut.

We have seen the videos out of Syria, which are truly atrocious, or the video of the beheading of Daniel Pearl a journalist killed by Al-Qaeda, but unlike those there was a strange absence of blood in this video. The supposed killer just puts the knife to Foley’s neck, saws back and forth for a few moments and no blood comes out. Then it cuts to a shot of a severed head over a dead body.

Why didn’t the most brutal terrorist group, according to western media, show the actually bloody murder to get the full terrorizing effect? And why hadn’t the lack of that scene been a crucial part of the media’s coverage? The video left me with more questions than answers. It called out for professional analysis of the video so there could be a higher degree of confidence in the authenticity of the video than the US government’s assurances could provide. IS not showing the actual beheading makes little sense.

“Foley Video Was Staged, At Least To Some Degree”

After searching the Internet for some more analysis, I found a diamond in the rough. Someone played with the brightness and contrast on the video and made it pretty clear that the strange bloodless scene with the knife was certainly not the moment of Foley’s death. See discussion of this video here.

James Foley FAKE Execution - Video Analysis Reveals the Truth - The RETURN!

The first version was good enough to get scrubbed by CIANSA-tube, AKA YouTube after 55,581 views. Now, with even BETTER video analysis, it's back! See up-close and in the best detail possible, what REALLY happened - and WHY. A comparison is also included, as to what it WOULD have looked like, if the 'beheading' had been real.

The James Foley fake 'execution' is just about finished, as a staged pretense and excuse for another pointless war.

https://archive.org/details/BeheadedJam ... JamesFoley

https://archive.org/details/HowTheyFAKE ... yExecution

https://archive.org/details/HeadlessJam ... eAndTheCIA

https://archive.org/details/TheBernardLewisPlan

Confirmation - "Chemical Attack" in Syria was FAKE - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kji74CZEiXI

Fake Syria Gas Attack - the Kerry and Boston Bombing Connection https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuzNhXn0bmA

===================================== The Fake death industry -

https://archive.org/details/Most911DeathsWereFabricated

https://archive.org/details/OfficialRec ... akeBombing

https://archive.org/details/AuroraFAKEN ... gConfirmed

Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=097_1408 ... 0HjOPBH.99


Then, as we were going to press it was reported that the UK Times hired experts to examine the video. The experts concluded that “a video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley was staged to at least some degree.” The UK Times reported on August 26th:

“The video of a British jihadist beheading an American hostage was probably staged, with the actual murder taking place off-camera, according to forensic analysis…

Firstly, no blood can be seen, even though the knife is drawn across the neck area at least six times. Secondly, sounds allegedly made by Foley do not appear consistent with what may be expected.”


They also point out that while a body and head are shown, and there is some blood in these images, “No pool of blood from the prodigious neck wound is visible.” In short, Foley’s murder was not shown in the video.

Digital Journal reports that “the experts’ conclusions come after Internet sleuths across the globe questioned many aspects of the video, including the timing, just prior to an Obama announcement to resume airstrikes in Iraq.” The International Business Times, not the usual conspiracy theorist, added its voice to the doubts writing “that portions of it appeared to be just being acted out” and quote a security expert saying “there was no single sign that he was terrified.”

It is also important to know that James Foley’s body has not been recovered.

Why? What Does This Mean?

It is unclear what the staging of this video means. Did IS do it, if so why? Did someone else do it, if so why and who? The problem is that every conspiracy video like this would be incomplete without a stock conclusion that goes something like this “This is an irregularity! Foley’s throat wasn’t cut by this knife! Therefore this entire video is a false flag operation.” (If you do not know the term ‘false flag’ think Gulf of Tonkin.) However a conspiracy cannot be proved by this video alone, it doesn’t ‘follow’ though it certainly isn’t impossible. A classic coincidence that deepens the suspicions but still proves nothing is the report by the White House that there was a failed raid in Syria to rescue Foley by US Special Forces.

On the other side, there could be all sorts of reasons why IS decided not to include the actual beheading. Perhaps they did not want to provide evidence of specific guilt of the individual who killed Foley. Or, the beheading did not go well and they did not want to show their incompetence. These are two of no doubt many reasons why IS could have decided not to include the actual beheading.

Adding Even More Complexity

To make this situation even more complex, when you examine who supported IS you find allies of the United States in the Gulf with little doubt that the US was aware of their support and approved it. As writer and security expert, Nafeez Ahmed told The Real News:

“. . . follow the money, we’re looking at the involvement of the Gulf states, which have really empowered these groups over time and increased their ability to operate. They’ve increased their arms, logistical trading. So we’ve had the Saudis engaged in funding these groups in Syria. . .

“. . . it’s very clear. And we’ve had semiofficial and official confirmations from the CIA, from people in the State Department, other people in the Pentagon, even from British officials that have been involved in coordinating the Gulf states and supplying these kinds of virulent groups that we know are affiliated to al-Qaeda to basically topple Assad.

“. . . what makes it really more disturbing is, going deeper into that evidence of the role of the Saudis and the Qataris and Kuwait, which has been confirmed by various different sources, is really the way in which the U.S. and the U.K. have overseen that process. And that’s something which isn’t so much acknowledged in the mainstream, that actually Britain and the United States were involved in knowingly kind of facilitating the support to these groups, despite knowing their links to al-Qaeda calling back as early as 2009.”


So, things are not what they seem. US allies, with the approval of the US and UK have been providing funding and other support for IS, the video does not actually show the beheading and based on all of this, the call for US military attack in Iraq and Syria is roaring down the track.

When the US and its allies use this video to justify war, we as Americans whose reaction can prevent yet another expensive imperial war, need to demand that the US make a case for why ISIS isn’t our own governments fault. Before going to war the US needs to, among other things, demand that US allies stop funding IS. We need to understand who made this video, why it was made the way it was, and question all groups that stamped their approval on the video as “government verified” and didn’t dig any deeper if we are going to make the right decisions in the coming weeks. THIS VIDEO IS NOT A SMOKING GUN that justifies war.

Elias Weston-Farber is social media director for Popular Resistance.
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:56 am

Beheadings v. Drone Assassinations
by Coleen Rowley
September 30, 2014

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Why do Americans hate beheadings but love drone killings? What accounts for our irrational response to these two very different forms of illegal execution, one very profitable and high-tech, usually resulting in many collateral deaths and injuries, and the other very low-tech, but provoking fear and righteous condemnation from the citizens whose country prefers the high-tech?

The answer lies in human psychology. And probably like the old observation about history, people who refuse to understand human psychology are doomed to be victims of psychological manipulation. How is it that even members of peace groups have now come to support U.S. bombing?

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A Predator drone firing a missile.

One woman framed the issue like this: “I request that we discuss and examine why the videotaped beheading of a human being is understood to be more egregious than the explosion (almost totally invisible to the public) of a human being by a missile or bomb fired from a drone.”

There are at least four main reasons that could explain why Americans care far more about the beheadings (thus far) of two Americans and one U.K. citizen than they care about the thousands of foreign victims of U.S. drone bombing. Here’s how people are likely being manipulated into believing that more U.S. bombing is the answer to such terroristic killings even when almost all military experts have admitted that it won’t work and “there’s no military solution”:

1) ”Us versus them” mentality, the group bonding also known as tribalism, nationalism, group elitism, etc. seems partially learned behavior but also hard-wired into humans (like other animals) to enable group survival. The worst, most excessive forms of group bonding are also known as racism. Yet it’s an innate part of human psychological makeup to identify most closely with those with whom we share group affinity, so Americans are always going to care more about Americans/Westerners as opposed to more distant foreigners. A 2013 Gallup Poll seems to bear out this role of group affinity on multiple levels:

“In U.S., 65% Support Drone Attacks on Terrorists Abroad — Less than half of Americans are closely following news on drones. … Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) think the U.S. government should use drones to launch airstrikes in other countries against suspected terrorists. Americans are, however, much less likely to say the U.S. should use drones to launch airstrikes in other countries against U.S. citizens living abroad who are suspected terrorists (41%); to launch airstrikes in the U.S. against suspected terrorists living here (25%); and to launch airstrikes in the U.S. against U.S. citizens living here who are suspected terrorists (13%).”

(A researcher, however, who later published her findings in the Washington Post believes these polls ostensibly showing that “Americans love drone strikes” were skewed by not asking the right questions.)

2) The gruesome beheadings were deliberately and dramatically videotaped to ensure that U.S. media brought the scenes into all U.S. living rooms whereas the drone bombings of citizens of foreign countries are almost never filmed nor covered at all by U.S. media. Thus to the majority of Americans, drone killings seem sterile, sanitized and surgical even though some of the pilots and analysts whose cameras hover over the scene afterward thus allowing close-up views after launching their missiles, know differently and end up suffering from PTSD. Some are even committing suicide.

3) It’s apparent that even a large segment of the “peace” community does not understand that U.S. wars and U.S.-orchestrated regime changes indirectly created Islamic State (and other Al Qaeda type terrorist groups) and that U.S. drone (and other aerial) bombing is giving rise to MORE terrorism, rather than working to reduce it. These two articles “How the West Created the Islamic State” and “How ISIS Is Using Us to Get What It Wants” describe the dynamic.

As in all wars, the leaders of both sides are opportunistically using each other to empower each other. Robert Greenwald’s video puts it most succinctly: “How Perpetual War Fuels Terrorism.”



HOW PERPETUAL WAR FUELS TERRORISM
by Brave New Films

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BRAVE NEW FILMS

NEW FILMS EVERY WEEK

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[President Obama] We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country where they are.

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[Narrator] Yet another war in the middle east to stop terrorism?

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HOW DOES THIS END?

Since 1980, we have militarily intervened at least 35 times in over 27 countries ...

LIBYA COLUMBIA PANAMA IRAQ AFGHANISTAN GRENADA

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But we're no safer as a result, because ...

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PERPETUAL WAR FUELS TERRORISM.

And yet, in Syria, the plan is to ramp up ...

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[President Obama] military assistance to the Syrian opposition.

But we've tried arming "friendly" rebels before. We armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.

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They later became al Qaeda and the Taliban. They not only attacked us ...

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but terrorized their own people. And in Iraq, we will ...

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[President Obama] conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists.

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This strategy is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

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[Narrator] We ramped up strikes in Yemen in 2009.

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Since then, the country has seen more terrorist attacks, not fewer.

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Terrorist attacks in Somalia also keep increasing.

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When we only respond with military force today, we create tomorrow's enemies.

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[Imran Khan, Member of Pakistan National Assembly] All that it is doing is increasing militancy and hatred and anti-Americanism.

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Tell me how we're winning if every time we kill one we create 10?

[Narrator] Perpetual war does not make the world safer.

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PRESIDENT OBAMA NEEDS TO STOP AND THINK.

Share this because President Obama needs to stop and think.

HOW DOES THIS END?

CALL YOUR SENATOR

SHARE THIS VIDEO


(The opposite is also true: terrorism fuels war.) This is well-known by Western intelligence analysts and foreign policy experts. It’s garden variety war manipulation for everyone except the duped U.S. public. (Andy Borowitz isn’t really joking when he reports: “Americans Who Have Not Read a Single Article about Syria Strongly Support Bombing It.”)

Americans Who Have Not Read a Single Article About Syria Strongly Support Bombing It
by Andy Borowitz
September 24, 2014
newyorker.com

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PHOTOGRAPH BY ABDALGHNE KAROOF/REUTERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Borowitz Report) — In a positive development for the U.S.-led campaign of air strikes in Syria, a new poll indicates strong, broad-based support for the mission among people who have yet to read a news article about Syria.

According to the poll, released on Tuesday, the bombing campaign got a thumbs-up from people who had no information about Syria’s civil war, including its duration, the parties involved, and what a Sunni is.

Additionally, the air strikes garnered enthusiastic support from people who could not correctly identify the President of Syria, tell what the acronym ISIS stands for, or locate Syria on a map.

According to pollster Davis Logsdon, who supervised the survey for the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, the poll numbers augur well for the mission going forward.

“People who have not read a single article about Syria are a key constituency because they represent an overwhelming majority of Americans,” he said. “And when you asked the follow-up question of whether they intended to read an article about Syria in the future, their answer was a resounding no.”

According to Logsdon, the bombing campaign also earned high marks from another important group, Americans who think that they maybe read a news headline about Syria but did not click on it.


It’s just too depressing to realize how many uninformed people there are who still think “bombing the village to save it” somehow can work. Such “war on terror” propaganda is actually effective on the liberal-minded who are more vulnerable to having their emotional buttons — fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty — pressed than it is on more pragmatic, cool-headed realists. It’s being reported that a number of U.S. journalists who should know better have even fallen for hyped terror threats used to justify the recent launching of bombing upon Syria.

4) A fourth reason why most Americans now go happily along with perpetual war in a kind of blissful stupor, cheering on their favorite war hawk politician comes from the lessons learned so well from the Vietnam War. Getting rid of the military draft and putting the trillions of dollars of mounting war costs on the ever-expanding and perfectly elastic national debt card was a stroke of genius on the part of the military-industrial complex to wipe away any remaining “Vietnam Syndrome.”

The new “poverty draft” that we’re left with constitutes another layer of “us versus them” type manipulation geared to getting the liberal, intellectual middle class on board as they perceive little or no costs and only benefits to endless war. Even when not directly profiting by working for military or national security contractors, many Americans have thus come to believe that war creates jobs and ensures they are supplied with cheap gas and other resources.

When I solicited others’ opinions on the Huffington Post where an earlier version of this thought piece was published, one man responded, “The answer is obvious. Given the choice, I guarantee that a vast majority of people would rather be killed in a missile attack (quick and painless often) than the horror of some guy chopping your head off with a knife.”

Of course, I know of no one who can tell us which death is more painful, but there’s reason to question that being killed by drone bombs is any less horrible then death by beheading. Some drone pilots have talked about watching those they’ve hit try crawling away with severed limbs or lie bleeding to death for hours.

The comment would seem to be a window, however, into what’s probably a very common perception or rationalization in the U.S. Ironically, if you check out the history of official beheading via the guillotine, it was invented during the French Revolution as a quicker and more humane, seemingly less painful way to execute people than prior methods like hanging. It was then used for almost 200 years in France up to 1981 when the French made capital punishment illegal. Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies still frequently conduct beheadings.

Anyway, enough said about morbid deaths. I may be flat wrong but there has to be some explanation for this American incongruity. Without the witty humor of a Borowitz or Jon Stewart, some people may even resent the question and/or this discussion of how they are constantly duped into supporting a perpetual war that makes them less and less safe. But hopefully, more people will learn to wise up to this psychological manipulation.

Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel who writes on ethical and legal issues. [An earlier version of this article appeared at Coleen Rowley’s blog at HuffingtonPost.]
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Mar 31, 2015 2:52 am

Part 1 of 2

How the West Created the Islamic State
by Nafeez Ahmed

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Part 1 – OUR TERRORISTS

“This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated,” Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon press conference in August.

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Divide and Rule in Iraq

“It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs,” said one US government defense consultant in 2007. “It’s who they throw them at – Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Early during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, the US covertly supplied arms to al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents even while ostensibly supporting an emerging Shi’a-dominated administration.

Pakistani defense sources interviewed by Asia Times in February 2005 confirmed that insurgents described as “former Ba’ath party” loyalists – who were being recruited and trained by “al-Qaeda in Iraq” under the leadership of the late Abu Musab Zarqawi – were being supplied Pakistan-manufactured weapons by the US. The arms shipments included rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry. These arms “could not be destined for the Iraqi security forces because US arms would be given to them”, a source told Syed Saleem Shahzad – the Times’ Pakistan bureau chief who, “known for his exposes of the Pakistani military” according to the New Yorker, was murdered in 2011. Rather, the US is playing a double-game to “head off” the threat of a “Shi’ite clergy-driven religious movement,” said the Pakistani defense source.

This was not the only way US strategy aided the rise of Zarqawi, a bin Laden mentee and brainchild of the extremist ideology that would later spawn ‘ISIS.’

According to a little-known November report for the US Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) and Strategic Studies Department, Dividing Our Enemies, post-invasion Iraq was “an interesting case study of fanning discontent among enemies, leading to ‘red-against-red’ [enemy-against-enemy] firefights.”

While counterinsurgency on the one hand requires US forces to “ameliorate harsh or deprived living conditions of the indigenous populations” to publicly win local hearts and minds, “the reverse side of this coin is one less discussed. It involves no effort to win over those caught in the crossfire of insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare, whether by bullet or broadcast. On the contrary, this underside of the counterinsurgency coin is calculated to exploit or create divisions among adversaries for the purpose of fomenting enemy-on-enemy deadly encounters.”

In other words, US forces will pursue public legitimacy through conventional social welfare while simultaneously delegitimising local enemies by escalating intra-insurgent violence, knowing full-well that doing so will in turn escalate the number of innocent civilians “caught in the crossfire.” The idea is that violence covertly calibrated by US special operations will not only weaken enemies through in-fighting but turn the population against them.

In this case, the ‘enemy’ consisted of jihadists, Ba’athists, and peaceful Sufis, who were in a majority but, like the militants, also opposed the US military presence and therefore needed to be influenced. The JSOU report referred to events in late 2004 in Fallujah where “US psychological warfare (PSYOP) specialists” undertook to “set insurgents battling insurgents.” This involved actually promoting Zarqawi’s ideology, ironically, to defeat it: “The PSYOP warriors crafted programs to exploit Zarqawi’s murderous activities – and to disseminate them through meetings, radio and television broadcasts, handouts, newspaper stories, political cartoons, and posters – thereby diminishing his folk-hero image,” and encouraging the different factions to pick each other off. “By tapping into the Fallujans’ revulsion and antagonism to the Zarqawi jihadis the Joint PSYOP Task Force did its ‘best to foster a rift between Sunni groups.’”

Yet as noted by Dahr Jamail, one of the few unembedded investigative reporters in Iraq after the war, the proliferation of propaganda linking the acceleration of suicide bombings to the persona of Zarqawi was not matched by meaningful evidence. His own search to substantiate the myriad claims attributing the insurgency to Zarqawi beyond anonymous US intelligence sources encountered only an “eerie blankness”.

The Zarqawi Phenomenon
by Dahr Jamail
July 5, 2005

A remarkable proportion of the violence taking place in Iraq is regularly credited to the Jordanian Ahmad al-Khalayleh, better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and his organization Al Qaeda in Iraq. Sometimes it seems no car bomb goes off, no ambush occurs that isn't claimed in his name or attributed to him by the Bush administration. Bush and his top officials have, in fact, made good use of him, lifting his reputed feats of terrorism to epic, even mythic, proportions (much aided by various mainstream media outlets). Given that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be based upon administration lies and manipulations, I had begun to wonder if the vaunted Zarqawi even existed.

In Amman, where I was recently based, random interviews with Jordanians only generated more questions and no answers about Zarqawi. As it happens, though, the Jordanian capital is just a short cab ride from Zarqa, the city Zarqawi is said to be from. So I decided to slake my curiosity about him by traveling there and nosing around his old neighborhood.

"Zarqawi, I don't even know if he exists," said a scruffy taxi driver in Amman and his was a typical comment. "He's like Bin Laden, we don't even know if he exists; but if he does, I support that he fights the U.S. occupation of Iraq."

Chatting with a man sipping tea in a small tea stall in downtown Amman, I asked what he thought of Zarqawi. He was convinced that Zarqawi was perfectly real, but the idea that he was responsible for such a wide range of attacks in Iraq had to be "nonsense."

"The Americans are using him for their propaganda," he insisted. "Think about it -- with all of their power and intelligence capabilities -- they cannot find one man?"

Like so many others in neighboring Jordan, he, too, offered verbal support for the armed resistance in Iraq, adding, "Besides, it is any person's right to defend himself if his country is invaded. The American occupation of Iraq has destabilized the entire region."

The Bush administration has regularly claimed that Zarqawi was in -- and then had just barely escaped from -- whatever city or area they were next intent on attacking or cordoning off or launching a campaign against. Last year, he and his organization were reputed to be headquartered in Fallujah, prior to the American assault that flattened the city. At one point, American officials even alleged that he was commanding the defense of Fallujah from elsewhere by telephone. Yet he also allegedly slipped out of Fallujah either just before or just after the beginning of the assault, depending on which media outlet or military press release you read.

He has since turned up, according to American intelligence reports and the U.S. press, in Ramadi, Baghdad, Samarra, and Mosul among other places, along with side trips to Jordan, Iran, Pakistan and/or Syria. His closest "lieutenants" have been captured by the busload, according to American military reports, and yet he always seems to have a bottomless supply of them. In May, a news report on the BBC even called Zarqawi "the leader of the insurgency in Iraq," though more sober analysts of the chaotic Iraqi situation say his group, Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad, while probably modest in size and reach is linked to a global network of jihadists. However, finding any figures as to the exact size of the group remains an elusive task.

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell offered photos before the U.N. in February, 2003 of Zarqawi's "headquarters" in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, also claiming that Zarqawi had links to Al-Qaeda. The collection of small huts was bombed to the ground by U.S. forces in March of that year, prompting one news source to claim that Zarqawi had been killed. Yet seemingly contradicting Powell's claims for Zarqawi's importance was a statement made in October, 2004 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who conceded that Zarqawi's ties to Al Qaeda may have been far more ambiguous, that he may have been more of a rival than a lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. "Someone could legitimately say he's not Al Qaeda," added Rumsfeld.

The Eternal Netherworld of Zarqawi

For anyone trying to assess the Zarqawi phenomenon from neighboring Jordan, complicating matters further are the contradictory statements Jordanians regularly offer up about almost any aspect of Zarqawi's life, history, present activities, or even his very existence.

"I've met him here in Jordan," claimed Abdulla Hamiz, a 29 year-old merchant in Amman, "Two years ago." However, Hajam Yousef, shining shoes under a date palm in central Amman, insists, "He doesn't exist except in the minds of American policy-makers."

In fact, what little is actually known about Zarqawi sounds like the biography of a troubled but normal man from the industrial section of Zarqa. Thirty-eight years old now, according to the BBC, Zarqawi reportedly grew up a rebellious child who ran with the wrong crowd. He liked to play soccer in the streets as a young boy and dropped out of school when he was 17. According to some reports, his friends claimed that in his teens he started drinking heavily, getting tattoos, and picking fights he could not win. According to Jordanian intelligence reports provided to the Associated Press in Amman, Zarqawi was jailed in the 1980's for sexual assault, though no additional details are available. By the time he was 20 he evidently began looking for direction, and ended up making his way to Afghanistan in the last years of the jihadist war against the Soviets in that country. While some media outlets like the New York Times claim that he did not actually fight in Afghanistan, there are people in Jordan who believe he did.

He is reported to have returned to Jordan in 1992 where he was arrested after Jordanian authorities found weapons in his home. Upon his release in 1999, he left once again for Pakistan. When his Pakistani visa expired, expecting to be arrested as a suspect in a terror plot if he returned to Jordan, he entered Afghanistan instead.

After supposedly running a weapons camp there, he was next sighted by Jordanian authorities, crossing back into Jordan from Syria in September of 2002. Sometime between then and May 11, 2004, when he was reported to have beheaded the kidnapped American, Nick Berg, in Baghdad, Zarqawi entered Iraq. Many news outlets have reported that his goal in Iraq is to generate a sectarian civil war between the Sunni and Shia.

In September, 2004, the BBC, among others, reported, "U.S. officials suspect that Zarqawi is holed up with followers in the rebellious Iraqi city of Fallujah," though their sources, as is true of more or less all sources in every report on Zarqawi, were nebulous. During the second siege of Fallujah, last November, Newsweek reported that "some U.S. officials say that Zarqawi may actually be directing or instigating events in the town by telephone from elsewhere in Iraq." Though they too cited no specific sources and provided no evidence for this, Newsweek then summed Zarqawi's importance up in this way: "His crucial role in the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, however, cannot be underestimated." Meanwhile, the BBC was reporting that his "network is considered the main source of kidnappings, bomb attacks and assassination attempts in Iraq" -- another statement made without much, if any, solid evidence.

In the end, the vast mass of reportage on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi amounts to countless statements based on anonymous sources hardly less shadowy -- to ordinary readers -- than him. He exists, then, in a kind of eternal netherworld of reportage, rumor, and attribution. It could almost be said that never has a figure been more regularly written about based on less hard information. While we have a rough outline of who he is, where he is from, and where he went until he entered Iraq, evidence that might stand up in a court of law is consistently absent. The question that begs to be answered in this glaring void of hard information is: Who benefits from the ongoing tales of the mysterious Zarqawi?

The Search for Zarqawi's Past

My own little journey only seemed to repeat this larger phenomenon on a more modest scale. It was the sort of story where, from beginning to end, no one I met ever seemed willing to offer his or her real name (or certainly let a real name be used in an article). From second one, Zarqawi and an urge for anonymity were tightly -- and perhaps appropriately -- bound together. Abdulla (not his real name, of course), the man who agreed to drive my translator Aisha and me to Al-Zarqa for this excursion was a Jordanian, by the look of things about 30 years old, who chain-smoked nervously throughout the trip. We decided to go with him after running into him while I was conducting my own informal Zarqawi reality poll in Amman.

"I know him personally because we fought together in Afghanistan in the early '90's," insisted Abdulla. "If you like, I can show you where he is from."

When he picked us up on the late afternoon of the next day in his beat-up, rusting taxi, he agreed to a modest fee that was to be paid at the end of our excursion. As we puttered up a hillside on our venture to Zarqawi's hometown of Al-Zarqa, he promptly pulled out a small stack of photos. I flipped through them as we drove towards Zarqawi's neighborhood and noted Abdulla standing in front of the huge Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, a giant beard (no longer present) dominating his flowing dishdasha.

Another picture had him in Peshawar, Pakistan, a city near the Afghan border known as a recruiting and staging area for the Taliban. Others seemed to have him in the Philippines standing amid dense forest with a gun slung over his shoulder. In none of them -- why should I have been surprised -- did he have a companion with the now so globally recognizable Zarqawi sneer.

A little while into our journey, out of nowhere Abdulla suddenly said, "Anyone collaborating with the Americans in Iraq should be killed!"

I took this as a sign that he felt like talking, and asked him what he knew of Zarqawi. According to him, he met the mythic terrorist in Peshawar before being sent with him to a training camp on the border of Afghanistan in 1990. "There are several well known training camps in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he explained, "And we were in one of those, along with freedom fighters from Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon."

Only fighters for "jihad" were allowed into the camps, he continued proudly. Only fighters who were identified by other well known mujahideen were granted permission to enter, in an effort to safeguard those camps against spies. After three months of training with machine guns and rocket launchers, Abdulla claims that he and Zarqawi headed for Afghanistan to fight the Russians who remained there.

When I looked at him quizzically -- since the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan in February of 1989 -- he replied, "Many of them stayed after their government announced they had withdrawn -- so we were pushing the rest of them out."

This was already a questionable tale, but he went right on. They were given the choice, he claimed, of where to go in Afghanistan, and Abdulla proudly stated that most of the mujahideen went to the "hot" areas where they expected to find fighting. Our discussion was then interrupted because we had completed the hop to Zarqa and arrived in the neighborhood, so rumor has it, where Zarqawi's brother-in-law lives. We were dropped off near a small mosque where Zarqawi supposedly used to pray.

Abdulla says it isn't safe for him to linger here -- though he doesn't bother to explain why -- and we agree instead that he will call us on my cell phone in an hour to see if we need more time or not.

So Aisha and I begin to walk around the quiet, middle-class neighborhood asking people if they know where the brother-in-law lives. Small children play in the streets. Behind them young men and parents sit eyeing us suspiciously. The wind whips plastic bags along the roads between the usual stone houses of Jordan. Finally, we find an old man with a white, flowing beard and tired eyes sitting in a worn chair at the front of a small grocery stall. He admits to being the Imam of the mosque, but when asked if he remembers Zarqawi he dodges the question artfully.

"It is probably true that he used to pray in my mosque," he responds tiredly, "but I can't say for sure, as my back is to the people whom I lead in prayers."

After this he looks away, down the road. I assume he's wishing we were gone -- undoubtedly like so many Zarqawi seekers before us. So we thank him and walk on.

Next, we find a woman -- no names given -- who assures us that Zarqawi is from the Beni Hassan tribe, the largest tribe in Jordan, before pointing to a two-story white house with a black satellite dish on top.

"That is Ahmed Zarqawi's home," she says softly, referring to one of his brothers before warning, "But don't go there because they will throw rocks on your head. They are sick of the media."

After being sidetracked by being shown his brothers' home, we keep doggedly asking for his brother-in-law, but everyone insists that they simply don't know where he lives, which seems odd. Just up the hill from his brother's home, we stumble upon a middle-aged man who is willing to be interviewed. He's a rare find in this village that has certainly been inundated with media, not to speak of far more threatening visits from the intelligence and police personnel of various countries.

Like our taxi driver, this man agrees to be interviewed on condition of anonymity. These are, it seems, a reasonably media-savvy group of villagers. He tells us that Zarqawi's brother doesn't know much about the mythic legend of the Jordanian jihadi outlaw, due to the fact that he keeps his distance from all the hoopla. He then laughs and adds, "But all the media went to his brother's house anyway to film it, because they thought it was Zarqawi's home!"

He then points across a shallow valley where lines of homes sit bathed in the setting sun. "He [Zarqawi] is from that village, lives near a cemetery, and his father is mayor of that district, which is called al-Ma'assoum quarter."

He claims to have known Abu Musab since he was seven years old, as they went to Prince Talal Primary School together. "He was a trouble maker ever since he was a kid," he explains, "What the media is saying about him is not true, though. Abu Musab is a normal guy. What the Americans are saying is not true. Most of us who know him here and in his neighborhood don't believe any of this media."

He tells us that Zarqawi left the neighborhood in the early 1990's to go to Afghanistan, but that he doesn't believe he is in Iraq. Along with others in the neighborhood, he is convinced that Zarqawi was killed in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan during the U.S. bombings that resulted from the attacks of September 11th.

"His wife and their three children still live over there," he adds. "But don't go talk to them. They won't allow it." He believes Zarqawi was killed, "100%," and then says emphatically, "If he is still alive, why not show a recent photo of him? All of these they show in the media are quite old."

Like so many Jordanians, he supports the Iraqi resistance, "All Muslims should fight this occupation because everyday the Americans are slaughtering innocent Iraqis." Zarqawi, he tells us, wasn't a fighter until he went to Afghanistan. "Then his wife covered herself in black and has worn it ever since." According to this man, Zarqawi has two brothers named Ahmed and Sail. He says with a smile, "Most of the media coming here are westerners because I think most of the Arab media know this is all a myth."

He holds up his hands when one of his sons brings us coffee and asks, "When they show hostages in Iraq, why doesn't he put himself in the film? There is simply no proof he is alive offered by the Americans or the media."

We engage in some small talk while drinking our strong Arabic coffee as we sit under grape vines lacing the terrace over our heads. As the sun begins to set, we thank him for the talk and the coffee, and head off as our taxi driver phones.

I am walking quickly through the streets to meet him when Aisha, whom I've worked with often in Baghdad, reassures me: "You can slow down, Dahr, we are not in danger here. This isn't like Baghdad where we'll be killed after dark."

Shortly thereafter we meet our driver. "They didn't tell you where his brother-in-law is because his home has been raided so many times," he states as a matter of fact. "By both Jordanian and US intelligence."

Our driver insists that Zarqawi is alive and well in Iraq. "I'm certain of it, because if he was dead they would show his picture and make the announcement. He has always been so strong. When we were in Afghanistan, any time we got a new machine to learn or French missiles, he was the first to learn them."

He drives us by another mosque Zarqawi is also supposed to have attended. We are in the al-Ma'assoum quarter now and our driver tells us that a sister of Abu Musab is the head of the Islamic Center of the district. He then adds, somewhat randomly, that he himself has been in different prisons for a total of seven years -- one of those statements you can't decide whether you wished you had never heard or are simply relieved you didn't hear hours earlier just as you were beginning.

"In Afghanistan when we beheaded people it was to show the enemy what their fate was to be. It was to frighten them."

I think to myself grimly: Well, it works.

He adds, "The jihad in Iraq is not just Zarqawi. It is up to Allah if we prevail, not dependent on the hand of Zarqawi. If he is killed, the jihad will continue there."

I ask him about civilian casualties. Does he think Zarqawi cares about the killing of innocent people?

"I have had so many discussions with Iraqis to tell them that Zarqawi doesn't instruct his followers in the killing of innocent people. If he did this, I would be the first to turn against him. He only targets the Americans and collaborators."

He's still chain smoking as we drive through the darkness back to Amman. I pay him as we thank him for taking us to Zarqa, and then his beat up taxi rolls off down the busy street.

The Eerie Blankness of Zarqawi

After discussions with our driver and other Jordanians, the only thing I feel I can say for sure is that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a real person. Whether or not he is alive and fighting in Iraq or not, or what acts he is actually responsible for there, is open to debate. On one point, I'm quite certain, however: Reported American claims that Zarqawi has affiliations with the secular government of Syria make no sense. Just as Saddam Hussein opposed the religious fundamentalism of Osama Bin-Laden, the Syrian government would not be likely to team up with a fundamentalist like Zarqawi.

Among this generation’s incarnations of this divisive strategy, which took place during the Vietnam War, was the fabrication of a fictitious resistance movement entitled the Sacred Sword of the Patriots League (SSPL). While stood up by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1962, the SSPL was handed off to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam’s Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG or SOG). Special Forces officers assumed oversight of SSPL and other covert operations aimed at North Vietnam. As noted by Richard H. Shultz, Jr. in his masterful book, the purpose of the SSPL “was to foster the impression that a well-organized resistance was active in North Vietnam.” 5 SOG conducted a spate of covert operations, psychological operations, and deceptions to throw North Vietnam off balance. SOG operators sought through their Diversionary Program, code-named Forae, to convince Hanoi that teams of enemy agents had penetrated deep into its territory. The deception sought to disrupt the North Vietnamese rear, by taking advantage of the communist’s regime’s well-known paranoia about spies and saboteurs.

-- Dividing Our Enemies, by Thomas H. Henriksen


As Bush administration officials have falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had links to Bin-Laden and to Zarqawi, they have also conveniently linked Zarqawi to a Syrian government they would certainly like to take out. Similarly, Bush officials continue to link Zarqawi to the Iraqi resistance -- undoubtedly another bogus claim in that the resistance in Iraq is primarily composed of Iraqi nationalists and Baathist elements who are fighting to expel the occupiers from their country, not to create a global Islamic jihad.

Thus, even if Zarqawi is involved in carrying out attacks inside Iraq and is killed at some future moment, the effect this would have on the Iraqi resistance would surely be negligible. It would be but another American "turning point" where nothing much turned.

Right now, when you try to track down Zarqawi, a man with a $25 million American bounty on his head, or simply try to track him back to the beginnings of his life's journey, whether you look for him in the tunnels of Tora Bora, the ruined city of Fallujah, the Syrian borderlands, or Ramadi, you're likely to run up against a kind of eerie blankness. Whatever the real Zarqawi may or may not be capable of doing today in Iraq or elsewhere, he is dwarfed by the Zarqawi of legend. He may be the Bush administration's Terrorist of Terrorists (now that Osama Bin-Laden has been dropped into the void), the Iraqi insurgency's unwelcome guest, the fantasy figure in some Jihadi dreamscape, or all of the above. Whatever the case, Zarqawi the man has disappeared into an epic tale that may or may not be of his own partial creation. Even dead, he is unlikely to die; even alive, he is unlikely to be able to live up to anybody's Zarqawi myth.

Whoever he actually may be, the "he" of Jihadist websites and American pronouncements is now linked inextricably with the devolving occupation of Iraq and a Bush administration that, even as it has built him up as a satanic bogeyman, is itself beginning to lose its own mythic qualities, to grow smaller.

I'm sure we'll continue to hear of "him" in Iraq, in Jordan, or elsewhere as his myth, perhaps now beyond anyone's control, continues to transform itself as an inextricable part of the brutal, bloody occupation of Iraq where the Bush Administration finds itself fighting not primarily Zarqawi (or his imitators) but the Iraqis they allegedly came to liberate.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist from Anchorage, Alaska. He has spent 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq, and recently has been reporting from Jordan and Turkey. He regularly reports for Inter Press Service, as well as contributing to The Nation, The Sunday Herald and Asia Times among others. He maintains a website at: dahrjamailiraq.com

The US military operation in Fallujah, largely justified on the claim that Zarqawi’s militant forces had occupied the city, used white phosphorous, cluster bombs, and indiscriminate air strikes to pulverise 36,000 of Fallujah’s 50,000 homes, killing nearly a thousand civilians, terrorising 300,000 inhabitants to flee, and culminating in a disproportionate increase in birth defects, cancer and infant mortality due to the devastating environmental consequences of the war.

To this day, Fallujah has suffered from being largely cut-off from wider Iraq, its infrastructure largely unworkable with water and sewage systems still in disrepair, and its citizens subject to sectarian discrimination and persecution by Iraqi government backed Shi’a militia and police. “Thousands of bereaved and homeless Falluja families have a new reason to hate the US and its allies,” observed The Guardian in 2005. Thus, did the US occupation plant the seeds from which Zarqawi’s legacy would coalesce into the Frankenstein monster that calls itself “the Islamic State.”

Bankrolling al-Qaeda in Syria

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business,” he told French television: “I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”


Roland Dumas: The British prepared for war in Syria 2 years before the eruption of the crisis
Ca Vous Regarde

(Roland Dumas (born 23 August 1922 in Limoges, Haute-Vienne) is a lawyer and French Socialist politician who served notably as Foreign Minister under President François Mitterrand from 1984 to 1986 and from 1988 to 1993. He was also President of the Constitutional Council from 1995 to 1999.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeyRwFHR8WY

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[Reporter] Do you agree with this duality, or is it more complicated?

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[Roland Dumas] It is very complicated since everybody is gathered here, of course, but in essence it is this. It is two clashing camps. I will tell you something. I went to England almost two years before the start of hostilities in Syria. I was there by chance on another business, not at all for Syria.

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I met British officials, some of whom are friends of mine. They confessed while trying to persuade me that preparations for something were underway in Syria.

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This was in England, not in the U.S.

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Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria. They even asked me, under the pretence that I was a former foreign minister, whether I wanted to participate in this. Of course, I declined. I am French. I am not interested.

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I just need to say that this operation goes way back. It was prepared, conceived, and planned.

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[Reporter] Excuse me, but for what purpose?

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[Roland Dumas] Very simply for the purpose of overthrowing the Syrian government ...

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because it is important to know in the region that this regime has an anti-Israel stance ...

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and consequently everything in the region revolves around it. I am in the confidence of the Israeli prime minister who said to me, "We will try to get on with the prime minister and with neighboring countries.

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But we will strike those who refuse to get on with us. This is a policy. This is a reading of history. Why not after all?

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We should be aware of it.


Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, confirmed that as of 2011, US and UK special forces training of Syrian opposition forces was well underway. The goal was to elicit the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

Spooks’ View on Syria: What Wikileaks Revealed
by Alex Thomson
Wednesday 28 Aug 2013

This merits interest. It was released by Wikileaks at 7pm on 3 June, 2012.

It is a military officer writing up a report on a meeting with US military intelligence officers and gives telling insight into their view of matters inside Syria. It was written at 00:49am, 7 December 2011.

It needs little by way of gloss, save to say the disclosure of foreign special forces on the ground and what they were there for and the limits of their deployment are of pressing interests now, as are the views and caution about airstrikes.

“I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic studies group – guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they’re operating in.

“It was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level, including one French and one British representative who are liaising with the US currently out of DC.”

Forces on the ground

Then comes the admission, without admitting it, of foreign special forces already on the ground in Syria at that time and their tasking:

“There is still a very low level of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what’s the strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF (special operations force) teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce missions and training opposition forces.

“One Air Force intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn’t much of a Free Syrian Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are being done out of ‘prudence’.”

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At that stage of the war any move toward any kind of air campaign and any use of special forces toward that, is deemed completely out of the question:

“I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air campaign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.”

‘Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake’

Should matters come to an air campaign – this is the view:

“They emphasised how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake. Syrian air defenses are a lot more robust and are much denser, esp around Damascus and on the borders with Israel, Turkey. They are most worried about mobile air defenses, particularly the SA-17s that they’ve been getting recently. It’s still a doable mission, it’s just not an easy one.

“There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn’t clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can’t just create an NFZ (no fly zone) over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) campaign lasting the duration of the war. They don’t believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Gaddafi move against Benghazi.”

The reflections then end on a timely change of staffing in terms of British commandeers of the potentially vital Cyprus RAF base:

“UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.”
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

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https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/16/1671459_insight-military-intervention-in-syria-post-withdrawal.html

On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.

INSIGHT - military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of forces
Released on 2012-03-06 07:00 GMT

Email-ID 1671459
Date 2011-12-07 00:49:18
From bhalla@stratfor.com
To secure@stratfor.com
A few points I wanted to highlight from meetings today --

I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic studies group -- guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they're operating in. It was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level, including one French and one British representative who are liaising with the US currently out of DC.

They wanted to grill me on the strategic picture on Syria, so after that I got to grill them on the military picture. There is still a very low level of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what's the strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce missions and training opposition forces. One Air Force intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn't much of a Free Syrian Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are being done out of 'prudence.' The way it was put to me was, 'look at this way -- the level of information known on Syrian OrBat this month is the best it's been since 2001.' They have been told to prepare contingencies and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.

I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air campaign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within. There wouldn't be a need for air cover, and they wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in columns anyway.

They emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake. Syrian air defenses are a lot more robust and are much denser, esp around Damascus and on the borders with Israel, Turkey. They are most worried about mobile air defenses, particularly the SA-17s that they've been getting recently. It's still a doable mission, it's just not an easy one.

The main base they would use is Cyprus, hands down. Brits and French would fly out of there. They kept stressing how much is stored at Cyprus and how much recce comes out of there. The group was split on whether Turkey would be involved, but said Turkey would be pretty critical to the mission to base stuff out of there. Even if Turkey had a political problem with Cyprus, they said there is no way the Brits and the French wouldn't use Cyprus as their main air force base. Air Force Intel guy seems pretty convinced that the Turks won't participate (he seemed pretty pissed at them.)

There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn't clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can't just create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD campaign lasting the duration of the war. They don't believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn't reach that very public stage. They're also questioning the skills of the Syrian forces that are operating the country's air defenses currently and how significant the Iranian presence is there. Air Force Intel guy is most obsessed with the challenge of taking out Syria's ballistic missile capabilities and chem weapons. With Israel right there and the regime facing an existential crisis, he sees that as a major complication to any military intervention.

The post 2011 SOFA with Iraq is still being negotiated. These guys were hoping that during Biden's visit that he would announce a deal with Maliki, but no such luck. They are gambling on the idea that the Iraqis remember the iran-iraq war and that Maliki is not going to want to face the threat of Iranian jets entering Iraqi air space. They say that most US fighter jets are already out of Iraq and transferred to Kuwait. They explained that's the beauty of the air force, the base in Kuwait is just a hop, skip and jump away from their bases in Europe, i.e., very easy to rapidly build up when they need to. They don't seem concerned about the US ability to restructure its forces to send a message to Iran. They gave the example of the USS Enterprise that was supposed to be out of commission already and got extended another couple years to send to the gulf. When the US withdraws, we'll have at least 2 carriers in the gulf out of Centcom and one carrier in the Med out of EuCom. I asked if the build-up in Kuwait and the carrier deployments are going to be enough to send a message to Iran that the US isn't going anywhere. They responded that Iran will get the message if they read the Centcom Web Site. Starting Jan. 1 expect them to be publishing all over the place where the US is building up.

Another concern they have about an operation in Syria is whether Iran could impede operations out of Balad air force base in Iraq.

The French representative was of the opinion that Syria won't be a Libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent (I don't really think a Syria campaign is the way to do that.) UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, i.e. someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.

Prior to that, I had a meeting with an incoming Kuwaiti diplomat (will be coded as KU301.) His father was high up in the regime, always by the CP's/PM's side. The diplo himself still seems to be getting his feet wet in DC (the new team just arrived less than 2 weeks ago,) but he made pretty clear that Kuwait was opening the door to allowing US to build up forces as needed. They already have a significant presence there, and a lot of them will be on 90-day rotations. He also said that the SOFA that the US signs with Baghdad at the last minute will be worded in such a way that even allowing one trainer in the country can be construed to mean what the US wants in terms of keeping forces in Iraq. Overall, I didn't get the impression from him that Kuwait is freaked out about the US leaving. Everything is just getting rearranged. The Kuwaitis used to be much better at managing their relations with Iran, but ever since that spy ring story came out a year ago, it's been bad. He doesn't think Iran has significant covert capabilities in the GCC states, though they are trying. Iranian activity is mostly propaganda focused. He said that while KSA and Bahrain they can deal with it as needed and black out the media, Kuwait is a lot more open and thus provides Iran with more opportunity to shape perceptions (he used to work in information unit in Kuwait.) He says there is a sig number of Luwaitis that listen to Iranian media like Al Alam especially.

On the Kuwaiti political scene -- the government is having a harder time dealing with a more emboldened opposition, but the opposition is still extremely divided, esp among the Islamists. The MPs now all have to go back to their tribes to rally support for the elections to take place in Feb. Oftentimes an MP in Kuwait city will find out that he has lost support back home with the tribe, and so a lot of money is handed out. The govt is hoping that with a clean slate they can quiet the opposition down. A good way of managing the opposition he said is to refer cases to the courts, where they can linger forever. good way for the govt to buy time. He doesn't believe the Arab League will take significant action against Syria -- no one is interested in military intervention. they just say it to threaten it.


Since then, the role of the Gulf states – namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan (as well as NATO member Turkey) – in officially and unofficially financing and coordinating the most virulent elements amongst Syria’s rebels under the tutelage of US military intelligence is no secret. Yet the conventional wisdom is that the funneling of support to Islamist extremists in the rebel movement affiliated to al-Qaeda has been a colossal and regrettable error.

The reality is very different. The empowerment of the Islamist factions within the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) was a foregone conclusion of the strategy.

In its drive to depose Col. Qaddafi in Libya, NATO had previously allied itself with rebels affiliated to the al-Qaeda faction, the Islamic Fighting Group. The resulting Libyan regime backed by the US was in turn liaising with FSA leaders in Istanbul to provide money and heavy weapons for the anti-Assad insurgency. The State Department even hired an al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan militia group to provide security for the US embassy in Benghazi – although they had links with the very people that attacked the embassy.

Last year, CNN confirmed that CIA officials operating secretly out of the Benghazi embassy were being forced to take extra polygraph tests to keep under wraps what US Congressman suspect was a covert operation “to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.”

With their command and control centre based in Istanbul, Turkey, military supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular were transported by Turkish intelligence to the border for rebel acquisition. CIA operatives along with Israeli and Jordanian commandos were also training FSA rebels on the Jordanian-Syrian border with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. In addition, other reports show that British and French military were also involved in these secret training programmes. It appears that the same FSA rebels receiving this elite training went straight into ISIS – last month one ISIS commander, Abu Yusaf, said, “Many of the FSA people who the west has trained are actually joining us.”

The National thus confirmed the existence of another command and control centre in Amman, Jordan, “staffed by western and Arab military officials,” which “channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units.” Rebel and opposition sources described the weapons bridge as “a well-run operation staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations and Arabian Gulf states, the latter providing the bulk of materiel and financial support to rebel factions.”

The FSA sources interviewed by The National went to pains to deny that any al-Qaeda affiliated factions were involved in the control centre, or would receive any weapons support. But this is difficult to believe given that “Saudi and Qatari-supplied weapons” were being funneled through to the rebels via Amman, to their favoured factions.

Classified assessments of the military assistance supplied by US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar obtained by the New York Times showed that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups… are going to hardline Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster.”

Lest there be any doubt as to the extent to which all this covert military assistance coordinated by the US has gone to support al-Qaeda affiliated factions in the FSA, it is worth noting that earlier this year, the Israeli military intelligence website Debkafile – run by two veteran correspondents who covered the Middle East for 23 years for The Economist – reported that: “Turkey is giving Syrian rebel forces, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, passage through its territory to attack the northwestern Syrian coastal area around Latakia.”

In August, Debkafile reported that “The US, Jordan and Israel are quietly backing the mixed bag of some 30 Syrian rebel factions”, some of which had just “seized control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, the only transit point between Israeli and Syrian Golan.” However, Debkafile noted, “al-Qaeda elements have permeated all those factions.” Israel has provided limited support to these rebels in the form of “medical care,” as well as “arms, intelligence and food…

“Israel acted as a member, along with the US and Jordan, of a support system for rebel groups fighting in southern Syria. Their efforts are coordinated through a war-room which the Pentagon established last year near Amman. The US, Jordanian and Israeli officers manning the facility determine in consultation which rebel factions are provided with reinforcements from the special training camps run for Syrian rebels in Jordan, and which will receive arms. All three governments understand perfectly that, notwithstanding all their precautions, some of their military assistance is bound to percolate to al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is fighting in rebel ranks. Neither Washington or Jerusalem or Amman would be comfortable in admitting they are arming al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in southern Syria.”

This support also went to ISIS. Although the latter was originally founded in Iraq in October 2006, by 2013 the group had significantly expanded its operations in Syria working alongside al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra until February 2014, when ISIS was formally denounced by al-Qaeda. Even so, experts on the region’s Islamist groups point out that the alleged rift between al-Nusra and ISIS, while real, is not as fraught as one might hope, constituting a mere difference in tactics rather than fundamental ideology.

We're Forgetting Something Ghastly About al-Nusra Front
by Raed Omari
Saturday, 6 September 2014

The terrorism-plagued Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese are pinning hopes on the NATO Summit for a U.S.-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The summit is also of prime significance for the grieving families of slain American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, needless of course, to say why. Not only those, all good-hearted people of the world, mainly Muslims, are also dreaming of an end to this unsurpassed brutality and violence. In any case, this is not Islam.

Now for the high-profile world gathering to coincide with a set of developments, ranging from the stomach-turning beheading of Sotloff by ISIS to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s videoed announcement of his militia’s Indian branch, much is expected in the outcome.

Remarkably enough, ISIS’ videotaped beheading of Sotloff and Zawahiri’s announcement of the al-Qaeda’s new branch on the Indian subcontinent were released at a time when world leaders were on their way to Newport, Wales for a high-profile summit with terrorism being the third major topic on its agenda. Accepting the challenge, President Barack Obama has pledged to punish, degrade and destroy ISIS, with his Vice president Joe Biden fierily vowing to follow the Islamist militia to _____. “Similar remarks” were also made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who voiced America’s determination to hunt down Sotloff’s killers.

With the Russian escalation in Ukraine and the NATO forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan topping the agenda of the summit, ISIS’ alarming threat is surely to be highlighted in the final Communiqué. In other words, the coalition against ISIS may not be announced following the meeting but may be formed soon somewhere else.

Coalition against ISIS

In my estimation, the coalition against ISIS was already formed long before the periodical summit – maybe following Foley‘s execution. The meeting of the 28-member alliance and their partners would be a chance to agree on the best course of action, logistics and intelligence plans regarding the campaign on ISIS.

However, it seems that ISIS is the main focus in the resurrected U.S.-led war on terror. What about al-Nusra Front? Why is the al-Qaeda affiliate not mentioned – or inadequately mentioned – in the international rhetoric on terror?

The world re-shifting focus on only ISIS is indeed understandable with regard to the radical group’s large-scale military operations and brutal atrocities, manifesting themselves in the persecution of minorities and mass killings, among others.

In comparison, al-Nusra Front has suffered from intra-rebel conflicts in addition to the defection of hundreds of its members to the ground-gaining ISIS with regard to the latter’s speedy capture of territories and its advanced weaponry. But the Nusra Front has achieved a series of victories over the last few weeks and, inasmuch as the influence of the al-Qaeda-inspired ISIS is much seen in Iraq and Syria, Lebanon is where the al-Qaeda affiliate’s activity can be spotted.

Lebanon is so far al-Nusra Front’s major domain in addition to other regions along the Syrian-Turkish border and the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. One major proof for al-Nusra Front’s high proportion in the region’s "mosaic of militias," so to speak, is the detention of several U.N. Fiji peacekeepers whose release it has linked to removing the al-Qaeda affiliate from the U.N.’s list of terrorist organizations.

Al-Nusra Front has so far presented a radical approach that is considerably moderate when compared with that of ISIS. However, this "leniency" is nothing more than a strategic tactic the Nusra has been employing to balance its disputes with ISIS. According to Hassan Abu Haniyeh, a renowned researcher in Islamist groups, al-Nusra Front was originally part of the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, from which ISIS sprung, but has refrained from unveiling its true identity due to concerns about straining its relationships with other rebel groups in Syria and angering external powers. This low-profile approach by al-Nusra was the reason behind ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s announcement of his organization’s disengagement from al-Qaeda, Abu Haniyeh said.

In brief, ISIS and al-Nusra are just two sides of the same coin with their claimed differences and disputes being on tactics rather than ideology. In other words, during a time of heavy bombardment of the ISIS posts in Syria and Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition or America alone, al-Nusra Front might be a safe haven for ISIS fighters.

At such a time, however, things would fall apart, as it would be very difficult to differentiate between Nusra and ISIS as was the case between al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

With world leaders discussing mechanisms to eliminate ISIS in Wales, it has to be made clear that the Islamist militia and the Nusra Front are just outcomes of the crises in Syria, Iraq and also Lebanon. In the absence of a comprehensive solution to these regional dilemmas, ISIS would expand into an international organization with branches in the MENA region, Asia or Europe.

The U.S. has heavily bombarded al-Qaeda in Afghanistan using Cruise and Tomahawk missiles and B-52 bombers but has not entirely eliminated the radical organization. The same will happen in the U.S.-led war against ISIS should the same strategies remain unchanged.

_____________

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2


Officially, the US government’s financial support for the FSA goes through the Washington DC entity, the Syrian Support Group (SSG) which was incorporated in April 2012. The SSG is licensed via the US Treasury Department to “export, re-export, sell, or supply to the Free Syrian Army (‘FSA’) financial, communications, logistical, and other services otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13582 in order to support the FSA.”

In mid-2013, the Obama administration intensified its support to the rebels with a new classified executive order reversing its previous policy limiting US direct support to only nonlethal equipment. As before, the order would aim to supply weapons strictly to “moderate” forces in the FSA.

Except the government’s vetting procedures to block Islamist extremists from receiving US weapons have never worked.

A year later, Mother Jones found that the US government has “little oversight over whether US supplies are falling prey to corruption – or into the hands of extremists,” and relies “on too much good faith.” The US government keeps track of rebels receiving assistance purely through “handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field,” and the judgement of its allies. Countries supporting the rebels – the very same which have empowered al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists – “are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies.”

Who's a "Moderate" Rebel in Syria? Check the Handwritten Receipts
The government has little oversight over whether US-funded supplies are falling prey to corruption—or into the hands of extremists.
by Dana Liebelson
September 12, 2013

Image
Daniel Leal-Olivas/ZUMA

In recent weeks, the Obama administration and hawks favoring a strike on Syria have called for the continued support of supposedly moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime. The United States has been sending millions of dollars in nonlethal aid to the rebels since February, and in June President Obama authorized secretly supplying weapons to opposition fighters. But with hundreds of Syrian rebel groups battling the regime—ranging from the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) to the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front—can the administration ensure that US aid is not winding up in the wrong hands? A system designed to monitor the disbursement of nonlethal supplies to the rebels is supposed to make sure assistance goes only to vetted fighters—but, according to government oversight experts, it relies on too much good faith.

The Syrian Support Group, a US-based nonprofit that is the only organization the Obama administration has authorized to hand out nonlethal US-funded supplies to the rebels, insists it keeps track of who's receiving this assistance based on handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field. According to Dan Layman, a spokesman for the group, this level of oversight is sufficient to guarantee US assistance is going to the right rebels and is being used appropriately. "What we're getting from [FSA commanders] in receipts directly reflects what's been given out and to whom, I'm very confident," he says. "The government regularly asks us for updates and new receipts, often faster than we can produce them." Layman doesn't know if or how the US government verifies these receipts.

Khalid Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, the chief political body representing the US-backed rebel forces, says countries supporting the rebels are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies, but he adds that he "cannot comment on which countries are performing the audits." The State Department did not respond to questions from Mother Jones.

In 2012, Brian Sayers, then the Washington lobbyist for the Syrian Support Group, told McClatchy that "obviously, it's always going to be difficult to say who's the end user for every cent, every dollar, but we don't see that the military councils will provide funds to the fringe groups." Relying on local commanders to guarantee US assistance is managed effectively could lead to "massive corruption," warns Aki Peritz, a senior policy adviser for Third Way and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst. Peritz notes that the supplies being handed out by the Syrian Support Group can be sold for cash or traded for weapons and ammunition.

Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a former commissioner for the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, says that in war zones, "it's in a commander's interest to give exaggerated numbers. We often see situations where a commander starts out with, say, three brigades, and then drops to one brigade, and continues to faithfully give receipts for the other two missing units. We call them 'ghost employees.'" He adds, "I think Syria is the Wild, Wild West as far as knowing who is doing what."

Here's how the nonlethal aid system works. On April 30, the Syrian Support Group began receiving State Department contracts, worth about $12 million so far, to deliver supplies—including MREs, combat casualty bags, and surgical equipment—directly to Syria's Supreme Military Council, the group that runs the Free Syrian Army and commands more than 560 military brigades. The US-based Syrian Support Group transports the supplies to the main Supreme Military Council warehouses*, and from there the the SMC takes over distribution. (The Syrian Support Group has also donated about $300,000 to $500,000 in cash to the rebels, but that money comes from private donors, not the US government.)

Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, says that "the concern that lethal and nonlethal aid not fall into the wrong hands is shared by our coalition." He says that every FSA brigade must meet certain conditions, including abiding by the FSA's constitution, not having children or foreigners in their units, and accepting regular audits by the Supreme Military Council and countries providing aid.

The FSA's top general, Salim Idriss, and his senior commanders are technically responsible for vetting the hundreds of FSA military brigades receiving US-underwritten supplies, but some of this work falls to province-level military councils and lower-level commanders at field offices around the war-torn country. "A commander from a particular area will authorize a group of soldiers to go to a Supreme Military Council warehouse, and then write a detailed receipt saying this unit picked up three crates of MRE rations from the warehouse," Layman explains. The receipts are signed by the commander of the unit picking up the supplies and the local warehouse director, who is also under the command of the Supreme Military Council. Layman notes that his organization confers with senior commanders daily and has a staffer in Syria (a former Pentagon employee) who is responsible for oversight.

"The field-level offices talk directly to the Supreme Military Council staff, and the staff figures out exactly how much aid a certain brigade needs from the warehouse based on its size and combat activity," Layman adds. "We'll often see receipts that say a group has received only three or four cartons of MREs, so I don't believe there's any abuse of access to supplies."

Tiefer, the former Commission on Wartime Contracting commissioner, says ensuring proper oversight requires more "than just fiddling with a receipt system." He recommends that the US government establish an oversight body to monitor State Department aid to Syria, or assign this oversight responsibility to an existing inspector general.

Given the makeup of the Syrian opposition forces, there is a good chance that some US assistance could find its way into the wrong hands. There are up to 150,000 rebel fighters in Syria, some of whom are not affiliated with FSA, and at least 16 percent of the rebels are considered "radical," according to the Syrian Support Group's own estimate. "When I worked at the [CIA's] counterterrorism center, for Iraq we estimated that Al Qaeda made up 8 percent of the insurgency," says Peritz. "This is way worse—this means there are at least 15,000 extremists in Syria."

US assistance ending up with radical elements of the opposition is not the only problem; this aid could also reach rebels committing atrocities. Last week, the New York Times posted a video of what it reported to be FSA-armed rebels executing shirtless prisoners. The Syrian Support Group issued a statement disputing the Times report, claiming the rebels in the video were from a non-SMC affiliated outfit that did not receive any supplies or funding from the Supreme Military Council.

This spring, one militia leader affiliated with the FSA—his brigade has since been kicked out—was filmed eating a dead soldier's heart. "This stuff happens rarely, but it's unfortunate," Layman says. "With the guy who was eating a heart, he was part of a moderate faction…We work with Idriss and let him know that he needs to prevent these things."

FSA supporters maintain that it can be hard for Americans to distinguish between radical and moderate rebels—and contend the current vetting process should be trusted. There's "quite a bit of nuance in these forces," says Yaser Tabbara, executive director of the Syrian American Council, a group advocating on behalf of the Syrian opposition. "Some of these forces have a religious undertone, they are practicing Muslims, but that does not necessarily make them extremists or against a civil Democratic order."

Update: This post previously stated that the Syrian Support Group gets supplies to the border. Layman clarifies that the group makes sure it gets to the main SMC warehouses.


Thus, with the Gulf states still calling the shots on the ground, it is no surprise that by September last year, eleven prominent rebel groups distanced themselves from the ‘moderate’ opposition leadership and allied themselves with al-Qaeda.

By the SSG’s own conservative estimate, as much as 15% of rebel fighters are Islamists affiliated to al-Qaeda, either through the Jabhut al-Nusra faction, or its breakaway group ISIS. But privately, Pentagon officials estimate that “more than 50%” of the FSA is comprised of Islamist extremists, and according to rebel sources neither FSA chief Gen Salim Idris nor his senior aides engage in much vetting, decisions about which are made typically by local commanders.

Part 2 – THE LONG WAR

Follow the Money

Media reports following ISIS’ conquest of much of northern and central Iraq this summer have painted the group as the world’s most super-efficient, self-financed, terrorist organisation that has been able to consolidate itself exclusively through extensive looting of Iraq’s banks and funds from black market oil sales. Much of this narrative, however, has derived from dubious sources, and overlooked disturbing details.

One senior anonymous intelligence source told Guardian correspondent Martin Chulov, for instance, that over 160 computer flash sticks obtained from an ISIS hideout revealed information on ISIS’ finances that was completely new to the intelligence community.

“Before Mosul, their total cash and assets were $875m [£515m],” said the official on the funds obtained largely via “massive cashflows from the oilfields of eastern Syria, which it had commandeered in late 2012.” Afterwards, “with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5bn to that.” The thrust of the narrative coming from intelligence sources was simple: “They had done this all themselves. There was no state actor at all behind them, which we had long known. They don’t need one.”

“ISIS’ half-a-billion-dollar bank heist makes it [the] world’s richest terror group,” claimed the Telegraph, adding that the figure did not include additional stolen gold bullion, and millions more grabbed from banks “across the region.”

This story of ISIS’ stupendous bank looting spree across Iraq made global headlines but turned out to be disinformation. Senior Iraqi officials and bankers confirmed that banks in Iraq, including Mosul where ISIS supposedly stole $430 million, had faced no assault, remain open, and are guarded by their own private security forces.

How did the story come about? One of its prime sources was Iraqi parliamentarian Ahmed Chalabi – the same man who under the wing of his ‘Iraqi National Congress’ peddled false intelligence about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda.

In June, Chalabi met with the US ambassador to Iraq, Robert Beecroft, and Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. According to sources cited by Buzzfeed in June, Beecroft “has been meeting Chalabi for months and has dined at his mansion in Baghdad.”

Follow the Oil

But while ISIS has clearly obtained funding from donors in the Gulf states, many of its fighters having broken away from the more traditional al-Qaeda affiliated groups like Jabhut al-Nusra, it has also successfully leveraged its control over Syrian and Iraqi oil fields.

In January, the New York Times reported that “Islamist rebels and extremist groups have seized control of most of Syria’s oil and gas resources”, bolstering “the fortunes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of al-Qaeda.” Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels had “seized control of the oil and gas fields scattered across the country’s north and east,” while more moderate “Western-backed rebel groups do not appear to be involved in the oil trade, in large part because they have not taken over any oil fields.”

Yet the west had directly aided these Islamist groups in their efforts to operationalise Syria’s oil fields. In April 2013, for instance, the Times noted that al-Qaeda rebels had taken over key regions of Syria: “Nusra’s hand is felt most strongly in Aleppo”, where the al-Qaeda affiliate had established in coordination with other rebel groups including ISIS “a Shariah Commission” running “a police force and an Islamic court that hands down sentences that have included lashings.” Al-Qaeda fighters also “control the power plant and distribute flour to keep the city’s bakeries running.” Additionally, they “have seized government oil fields” in provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka, and now make a “profit from the crude they produce.”

Lost in the fog of media hype was the disconcerting fact that these al-Qaeda rebel bread and oil operations in Aleppo, Deir al-Zour and Hasaka were directly and indirectly supported by the US and the European Union (EU). One account by the Washington Post for instance refers to a stealth mission in Aleppo “to deliver food and other aid to needy Syrians – all of it paid for by the US government,” including the supply of flour. “The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States,” the Post continues, noting that local consumers, however, “credited Jabhat al-Nusra – a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organisation because of its ties to al-Qaeda – with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.”

And in the same month that al-Qaeda’s control of Syria’s main oil regions in Deir al-Zour and Hasaka was confirmed, the EU voted to ease an oil embargo on Syria to allow oil to be sold on international markets from these very al-Qaeda controlled oil fields. European companies would be permitted to buy crude oil and petroleum products from these areas, although transactions would be approved by the Syrian National Coalition. Due to damaged infrastructure, oil would be trucked by road to Turkey where the nearest refineries are located.

“The logical conclusion from this craziness is that Europe will be funding al-Qaeda,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.

Just two months later, a former senior staffer at the Syria Support Group in DC, David Falt, leaked internal SSG emails confirming that the group was “obsessed” with brokering “jackpot” oil deals on behalf of the FSA for Syria’s rebel-run oil regions. “The idea they could raise hundreds of millions from the sale of the oil came to dominate the work of the SSG to the point no real attention was paid to the nature of the conflict,” said Falt, referring in particular to SSG’s director Brian Neill Sayers, who before his SSG role worked with NATO’s Operations Division. Their aim was to raise money for the rebels by selling the rights to Syrian oil.

Tacit Complicity in IS Oil Smuggling

Even as al-Qaeda fighters increasingly decide to join up with IS, the ad hoc black market oil production and export infrastructure established by the Islamist groups in Syria has continued to function with, it seems, the tacit support of regional and western powers.

According to Ali Ediboglu, a Turkish MP for the border province of Hatay, IS is selling the bulk of its oil from regions in Syria and Mosul in Iraq through Turkey, with the tacit consent of Turkish authorities: “They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at [the Turkish border regions of] Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep. They transfer the oil to Turkey and parlay it into cash. They take the oil from the refineries at zero cost. Using primitive means, they refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million.” He also noted that the extent of this and related operations indicates official Turkish complicity. “Fighters from Europe, Russia, Asian countries and Chechnya are going in large numbers both to Syria and Iraq, crossing from Turkish territory. There is information that at least 1,000 Turkish nationals are helping those foreign fighters sneak into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is allegedly involved. None of this can be happening without MIT’s knowledge.”

Similarly, there is evidence that authorities in the Kurdish region of Iraq are also turning a blind eye to IS oil smuggling. In July, Iraqi officials said that IS had begun selling oil extracted from in the northern province of Salahuddin. One official pointed out that “the Kurdish peshmerga forces stopped the sale of oil at first, but later allowed tankers to transfer and sell oil.”

State of Law coalition MP Alia Nasseef also accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of secretly trading oil with IS: “What is happening shows the extent of the massive conspiracy against Iraq by Kurdish politicians… The [illegal] sale of Iraqi oil to ISIS or anyone else is something that would not surprise us.” Although Kurdish officials have roundly rejected these accusations, informed sources told the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat that Iraqi crude captured by ISIS was “being sold to Kurdish traders in the border regions straddling Iraq, Iran and Syria, and was being shipped to Pakistan where it was being sold ‘for less than half its original price.’”

An official statement in August from Iraq’s Oil Ministry warned that any oil not sanctioned by Baghdad could include crude smuggled illegally from IS: “International purchasers [of crude oil] and other market participants should be aware that any oil exports made without the authorisation of the Ministry of Oil may contain crude oil originating from fields under the control of [ISIS].”

“Countries like Turkey have turned a blind eye to the practice” of IS oil smuggling, said Luay al-Khateeb, a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, “and international pressure should be mounted to close down black markets in its southern region.” So far there has been no such pressure. Meanwhile, IS oil smuggling continues, with observers inside and outside Turkey noting that the Turkish government is tacitly allowing IS to flourish as it prefers the rebels to the Assad regime.

According to former Iraqi oil minister Isam al-Jalabi, “Turkey is the biggest winner from the Islamic State’s oil smuggling trade.” Both traders and oil firms are involved, he said, with the low prices allowing for “massive” profits for the countries facilitating the smuggling.

Buying ISIS Oil?

Early last month, a tanker carrying over a million barrels in crude oil from northern Iraq’s Kurdish region arrived at the Texas Gulf of Mexico. The oil had been refined in the Iraqi Kurdish region before being pumped through a new pipeline from the KRG area ending up at Ceyhan, Turkey, where it was then loaded onto the tanker for shipping to the US. Baghdad’s efforts to stop the oil sale on the basis of its having national jurisdiction were rebuffed by American courts.

In early September, the European Union’s ambassador to Iraq, Jana Hybášková, told the EU Foreign Affairs Committee that “several EU member states have bought oil from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist organisation that has been brutally conquering large portions of Iraq and Syria,” according to Israel National News. She however “refused to divulge the names of the countries despite being asked numerous times.”

A third end-point for the KRG’s crude this summer, once again shipped via Turkey’s port of Ceyhan, was Israel’s southwestern port of Ashkelon. This is hardly news though. In May, Reuters revealed that Israeli and US oil refineries had been regularly purchasing and importing KRG’s disputed oil.

Meanwhile, as this triangle of covert oil shipments in which ISIS crude appears to be hopelessly entangled becomes more established, Turkey has increasingly demanded that the US pursue formal measures to lift obstacles to Kurdish oil sales to global markets. The KRG plans to export as much as 1 million barrels of oil a day by next year through its pipeline to Turkey.

Among the many oil and gas firms active in the KRG capital, Erbil, are ExxonMobil and Chevron. They are drilling in the region for oil under KRG contracts, though operations have been halted due to the crisis. No wonder Steve Coll writes in the New Yorker that Obama’s air strikes and arms supplies to the Kurds – notably not to Baghdad – effectively amount to “the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal – as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example – are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company.” The Kurds are now busy working to “quadruple” their export capacity, while US policy has increasingly shifted toward permitting Kurdish exports – a development that would have major ramifications for Iraq’s national territorial integrity.

To be sure, as the offensive against IS ramps up, the Kurds are now selectively cracking down on IS smuggling efforts – but the measures are too little, too late.

A New Map

The Third Iraq War has begun. With it, longstanding neocon dreams to partition Iraq into three along ethnic and religious lines have been resurrected.

White House officials now estimate that the fight against the region’s ‘Islamic State’ will last years, and may outlive the Obama administration. But this ‘long war’ vision goes back to nebulous ideas formally presented by late RAND Corp analyst Laurent Muraweic before the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board at the invitation of then chairman Richard Perle. That presentation described Iraq as a “tactical pivot” by which to transform the wider Middle East.

Brian Whitaker, former Guardian Middle East editor, rightly noted that the Perle-RAND strategy drew inspiration from a 1996 paper published by the Israeli Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, co-authored by Perle and other neocons who held top positions in the post-9/11 Bush administration.

The policy paper advocated a strategy that bears startling resemblance to the chaos unfolding in the wake of the expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ – Israel would “shape its strategic environment” by first securing the removal of Saddam Hussein. “Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and ‘roll back’ Syria.” This axis would attempt to weaken the influence of Lebanon, Syria and Iran by “weaning” off their Shi’ite populations. To succeed, Israel would need to engender US support, which would be obtained by Benjamin Netanyahu formulating the strategy “in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war.”

The 2002 Perle-RAND plan was active in the Bush administration’s strategic thinking on Iraq shortly before the 2003 war. According to US private intelligence firm Stratfor, in late 2002, then vice-president Dick Cheney and deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz had co-authored a scheme under which central Sunni-majority Iraq would join with Jordan; the northern Kurdish regions would become an autonomous state; all becoming separate from the southern Shi’ite region.

The strategic advantages of an Iraq partition, Stratfor argued, focused on US control of oil:

“After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman [Jordan]. Current and potential US geopolitical foes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would be isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-US forces.

“Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”

The expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ has provided a pretext for the fundamental contours of this scenario to unfold, with the US and British looking to re-establish a long-term military presence in Iraq.

In 2006, Cheney’s successor, Joe Biden, also indicated his support for the ‘soft partition’ of Iraq along ethno-religious lines – a position which the co-author of the Biden-Iraq plan, Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, now argues is “the only solution” to the current crisis.

In 2008, the strategy re-surfaced – once again via RAND Corp – through a report funded by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command on how to prosecute the ‘long war.’ Among its strategies, one scenario advocated by the report was ‘Divide and Rule’ which would involve “exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts.”

Simultaneously, the report suggested that the US could foster conflict between Salafi-jihadists and Shi’ite militants by “shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes… as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.”

One way or another, the plan is in motion. Last week, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman told US secretary of state John Kerry: “Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion.”

The rise of the ‘Islamic State’ is not just a direct consequence of this neocon vision, tied as it is to a dangerous covert operations strategy that has seen al-Qaeda linked terrorists as a tool to influence local populations – it has in turn offered a pretext for the launch of a new era of endless war, the spectre of a prolonged US-led military presence in the energy-rich Persian Gulf region, and a return to the dangerous imperial temptation to re-configure the wider regional order.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a bestselling author, investigative journalist and international security scholar. He has contributed to two major terrorism investigations in the US and UK, the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest, and has advised the Royal Military Academy Sandhust, British Foreign Office and US State Department. He is a regular contributor to The Guardian where he writes about the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, CounterPunch, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, among many others. His just released new novel, ZERO POINT, predicted a new war in Iraq to put down an al-Qaeda insurgency. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed and Facebook.
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Mar 31, 2015 3:12 am

How ISIS Is Using Us to Get What It Wants
by Alastair Crooke
09/25/2014

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"O crusaders, you have realized the threat of the Islamic State, but you have not become aware of the cure, and you will not discover the cure because there is no cure. If you fight it, it becomes stronger and tougher. If you leave it alone, it grows and expands... So mobilize your forces, O crusaders. Mobilize your forces, roar with thunder, threaten whom you want, plot, arm your troops, prepare yourselves, strike, kill, and destroy us. [Yet] this will not avail you. You will be defeated " -- Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani's latest statement in response to U.S. President Barack Obama.


Everyone it seems, is seeking to use ISIS for its own ends. Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al-Hayat, writes of the serious outbreak of schizophrenia that has struck the Gulf in regards to what it wants from the United States: "What is remarkable... is the sudden candor in expressing radical differences, for example between the fact that Gulf governments have characterized the ISIS threat as an 'existential' one, and the fact that a large segment of the public sympathizes with ISIS and its motives, and sees it as something necessary in the balance of power and the balance of terror."

"The Gulf," she continues, primarily sees ISIS as "a necessary instrument to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional ambitions, especially in the war in Syria" -- and not as terrorists.

The Gulf governments' tepid "dive" into this new "war" -- in contrast to their rhetoric -- may be judged by the scale of their contribution to the start of the air campaign in Syria: Four F-16 fighter jets from Saudi Arabia, four warplanes from the UAE, two from Bahrain, and one Mirage jet from Qatar "which did not drop any bombs, or take an 'active part' in the attack."

And just as "the Gulf' wishes to leverage the "war" primarily against President Assad, Russia and Iran, by contrast, insist in doing the converse: they want President Obama to leverage the "war" precisely (and only) at ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Indeed Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has encouraged U.S. air attacks on ISIS in Syria, but with the proviso that they are indeed targeted on ISIS -- and not the government -- and are directly or indirectly coordinated with Damascus.

And in response to Obama's threats against any Syrian targeting of U.S. aircraft (President Obama threatened to take out Syria's air defense system in retaliation), Russia has moved its own piece on the chessboard, precisely to checkmate Obama. Russia has threatened in response, to escalate weapons supplies to the Syrian government (including the means for it to defend itself against U.S. air attack) were U.S. planes to attack Syrian government positions -- either deliberately or accidentally. It is unlikely, too, to be a coincidence that we hear reports of Russian "Sumoum" ships specialized in air defense arriving recently in Latakia. Russia and Iran will cooperate with the U.S. in the Syrian war theater, but only if defined air-corridors, agreed targets for U.S. air assaults, and guarantees that the U.S. will not attempt to use the situation to create "safe havens" for the Syrian opposition are given.

The U.S. administration thus is between a rock and a hard place: Saudi Arabia desperately wants Assad's head on a plate and volunteers to fund the "war" effort for that end. But, for Obama to assent to Iranian-Russian conditions -- and thereby indirectly strengthen President Assad -- he will cause outrage in the Gulf and amongst the "moderate" Syrian exile insurgents. By doing as the Gulf wishes (attacking Assad's forces), however, he will almost certainly tip Russia, Iran and Hezbollah into overt opposition and escalation, which will greatly complicate the war on ISIS in Syria (and in Iraq, too).

Turkey, too wants to "use" the war on ISIS, but the Turkish immediate objective is not to weaken ISIS, but rather to help ISIS undermine the Syrian Kurdish semi-autonomous region that lies adjacent to Turkey's own restless (and far from autonomous) Kurds. ISIS continues to attack the Kurds near the Syria-Turkish border, and Turkish officials are preventing Kurds from crossing the Syrian border to fight ISIS. Seizure of this Kurdish territory would give ISIS a direct contiguity and a "logistics corridor" to Turkey.

Erdogan has furnished ISIS, from the outset of its involvement in Syria, with a Turkish platform by which it might bring down the Syrian state. It may be that the Turkish president now foresees the "war" opening new, bigger opportunities for Turkey. Were the "war" to end by destroying both Syria and Iraq's political structures (long expected by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as the final sweeping away of the old Sykes-Picot frontiers), Turkey, by maintaining good relations with all sides: with Ba'athists, some Kurds in Iraq, Sunni tribal leaders and ISIS (with whom Turkey has just agreed to a prisoner swap), would be ideally placed to mediate the future of the Sunni dominated upper Euphrates valley (spanning Syria and Iraq). Erdogan would, under such a scenario, effectively become the "Emir" over a large swathe of Sunni Islam.

Even Israel has its stake in using the "war." Israel has been facilitating the insurgents in the area adjacent to the Golan border (and more recently with artillery cover), which with the recent downing of the Syrian warplane, may be an attempt in the backdrop of the American air attacks on ISIS to create a no-fly zone over this southern infiltration passage way. The quid pro quo for this Israeli support against Assad would be for Israel to be folded into these states' ongoing war on the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

American "hawks," too want to leverage the ISIS "war" in Syria -- not merely against Assad -- but to advance their campaign to topple President Putin: to wound him in Syria (by defeating Assad), and to humiliate and discredit him in Ukraine amongst his own electorate. President Putin, however, is trying to leverage the ISIS situation precisely in the opposite direction: with the attempt to revive the channel of communication to Obama -- in order to coordinate in Syria and Iraq -- but also in order to de-escalate tensions with Washington more generally. Iran and Russia have already proposed a Baghdad-Damascus direct channel of communications by which to coordinate the war -- and this is already functioning. Intelligence is also passing in Damascus.

President Obama here faces a further dilemma. He does indeed need President Putin's cooperation (and Iran's, too) if he is to manage a critically unstable Middle East, but to seek Russian help in any visible, explicit way, will expose the president to unremitting criticism in the lead-up to congressional midterm elections. Hence the Byzantine complexities introduced through coordinating, but not wishing to be seen coordinating with either Russia, or Iran -- let alone Damascus! In U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's nuanced words: we do not coordinate, but we deconflict (with Damascus). It represents a contradiction in policy that would seem impossible to maintain over the longer term. Already the western-backed Syrian rebels are howling that they have been discredited by America's attacks in Syria. Nusra "says that those who deal with the West become part of the West" one rebel commander, who now adheres to the Free Syrian Army agenda, told McClatchy. "They are accusing us of being traitors. And the majority of the Syrian people are speaking in the same tone," he said. In short, it is the very "moderates" that the West hopes to support who are now doing the howling.

Of course this is not the complete list of those using the "war" to leverage their own ends: the Sunnis of Anbar, Saladin and Nineveh are using ISIS precisely to pressure Baghdad into giving them concessions. The Kurds are doing the same. The GCC is also using the "war" to coerce Qatar to follow the Saudi line and extend the war on the Muslim Brotherhood, hence the expulsions of MB figures from Qatar. And King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is also using the situation to try to coerce the Wahhabi clerics to stamp on any Wahhabist revival amongst the people -- he is using the crisis to try and bring the clerics closer to the modernist line, and away from the pure Wahhabist line.

There are more. In fact, there are so many parties interested in using ISIS for their own ends, that one may wonder how they could come to do without it. Perhaps they can't?

Indeed, President Obama may believe that in launching spectacular air attacks (with all the accompanying graphics), he is reinforcing democrat prospects in the midterms. He may be right. But he may also come to reflect that ISIS has been using him and King Abdullah and all the others, precisely for its own ends.

ISIS may once have been the tool -- even itself be the "creation" -- of many who thought to "use it," but perhaps now the tables are turned? Its videos of beheadings were not made without deliberated intentionality. Their narration by first one, and now a second, British accented person was not done without regard to its affect. Look again at the quotation by the ISIS spokesman above: Is this not an invitation, rather than a threat?

Nothing that ISIS has done has been whimsical, rather it reflects serious planning and intentionality. A map of ISIS-intended conquest of territory with its oil wells all carefully marked out, dates back to 2006. Its strategy for taking Mosul was more than two years in its incubation (ISIS evolved directly from Zarqawi's movement, and it had already set up a clandestine operation in Syria, which was Al-Nusra -- before the split between ISIS and Al-Nusra happened). Lebanese journalist, Radwan Mortada, further notes:

Based on the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), that "the Hour (of Resurrection) will not come until the Byzantines land in al-Amaq (valleys in Antioch, southern Turkey) or in Dabiq" (a Syrian village located to the north of Aleppo), ISIS' followers, she writes, are convinced that "a great battle is going to take" place with the "Crusader West." They conclude, she writes, that this confrontation will begin with a U.S. strike. "For them, 'it is an inevitable divine promise that will prove to the world that we are the masters of the State and builders of the end of time Caliphate.' What confirms their deeply-rooted belief in this prophecy is the English-language magazine they began issuing months ago called Dabiq ... The Return of Khilafah (Caliphate) . Even though [it has been ruled out]," she continues "... some IS supporters argue seriously that 'the Crusader alliance will be lured into a ground battle because it will definitely not achieve its goals from the air.'"


In this aspect, ISIS reflects the lessons of Israel's war on Hezbollah in 2006 -- Israel's air assault completely failed to destroy Hezbollah (which had prepared for it) -- but it was the movement's continued and subsequent ability to mount military actions that forced Israel to put boots on the ground -- and where it suffered its defeat.

Already, al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups are rallying to the ISIS flag to face the "War of the Cross" waged against them. And already, western-backed rebels are becoming "traitors," and those who "deal with the West" (Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain) are becoming "part of the West" -- i.e. apostates. Was this not somehow foreseeable? ISIS is using us to give it what it wants: wide Islamic mobilization, the de-legitimization of allied Arab leaders, and an inchoate "war" with no strategy or "end game" -- a process Obama is in fact facilitating.

But in the final analysis, the deep inconsistency -- and likely cause of this whole enterprise's ultimate failure -- is simply the paradox that the West's allies of choice will not, and cannot, be true "partners" to this "war." They have been too tainted with the firing up of this same Salafist ideology for too many decades. They are of it (the ideology). And the West has been complicit for so long, in allying to it, that it can neither abandon its "compromised" allies, nor expect them to put their own boots on the ground.

It is a war declared with no troops in view, or the means to craft an outcome. ISIS has cleverly used us.
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Mar 31, 2015 3:12 am

Dividing Our Enemies
by Thomas H. Henriksen

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JOINT SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNIVERSITY

Dividing Our Enemies
by Thomas H. Henriksen

JSOU REPORT 05-5

November 2005

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This report and other JSOU publications can be found on the SOF Education Gateway at https://jsou.socom.mil/gateway/. Click on “Highlighted Research” to view. The Strategic Studies Department, JSOU is currently accepting written works relevant to special operations for potential publication. For more information please contact Mr. Jim Anderson, JSOU Director of Research, at 850-884-1569, DSN 579-1569, james.d.anderson@hurlburt.af.mil. Thank you for your interest in the JSOU Press.

ISBN 0-9767393-7-2

Foreword

Dr. Thomas H. Henriksen provides us with historical insights of the benefits and difficulties of implementing strategic concepts for Dividing Our Enemies. He suggests that understanding and leveraging the human fault lines to counter terrorism can sometimes be an important complement to, or even substitute for, Special Operations Forces’ direct action tactics and larger battles of annihilation. Overwhelming fire is likely to be much less effective by itself in today’s global fight against violent extremism than other approaches that can take advantage of the political divisions among insurgents and terrorists.

Henriksen’s review of some past and recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that Special Operations Forces are probably exploiting the right strategic vision for our Global War on Terrorism. The use of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban forces was unique to that historical setting. Yet it is “certainly a historically viable stratagem,” Henriksen suggests, with likely application in places like the Philippines, Africa, and Central Asia. The vital role played by SOF in engaging the Kurdish opponents to Hussein’s government during the Persian Gulf War and the SOF actions during Operation Provide Comfort presaged the Kurdish revolt in the mid-1990s and Kurdish help again in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom as US forces moved unopposed into Kirkuk.

The downside of attempting to use factions against one another is seen in our strategic blunder in Fallujah in the spring of 2004, when successfully advancing US Marines were ordered to withdraw from that city and the Baathist-run Fallujah Brigade was put in charge to police the town. This resulted in angered Kurdish and Shiite leaders, a sanctuary for terrorist extremist Abu Musab Zarqawi, and an operational and moral back-slide for US forces. Henriksen points out that exacerbating Sunni–Shia division would contravene our vision for a viable democratic government in Iraq, but that in line with our global campaign against terrorist extremists, exploiting the rivalries or animosities among the insurgent bands clearly meets our goals.

Henriksen’s paper invites the SOF reader to revisit established doctrine for Foreign Internal Defense and Internal Defense and Development along with the complex issues about how to divide and conquer. It is likely that the intelligence needed for exploiting the differences among our enemies will result from these on-the-ground operations. And while lacking the glamour of direct action missions, the effects of special operations teams on the ground conducting unconventional warfare, psychological operations, and civil military operations are absolutely central to achieving an end-state of realizing democratic and viable governments. These are the special operations ways and means that can lead to successfully “leveraging inherent human fault lines to counter terrorism … ,” as Henriksen writes. SOF warriors will agree that having our enemies eliminate each other offers advantages over slug-it-out methodologies.

Lt Col Michael C. McMahon, USAF
Director, Strategic Studies Department
October 2005

Henriksen: Dividing Our Enemies

Dividing Our Enemies
Thomas H. Henriksen

Our priority will be first to disrupt and destroy terrorists organizations of global reach and attack their leadership; command, control, and communications; material support; and finances. This will have a disabling effect upon the terrorists’ ability to plan and operate. —National Security Strategy of the United States, September 2002 Politics and Counterinsurgency


If warfare is the continuation of politics by other means, as Clausewitz suggested, then counterinsurgency is the continuation of warfare by political means. The Prussian military philosopher understood that political objective dictates the type of war to be waged, its scope, and its intensity. The importance of the political considerations in counterinsurgency operations is nearly impossible to overstate. In the American way of waging counterguerrilla conflicts, politics has played—and continues to play—a central role in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The intrinsic properties of combating insurgents and terrorist networks demand keen attention to the political realm, not just martial capabilities.

The political dimension includes a range of civic action initiatives to win over the hearts and minds of the indigenous population to the U.S.-led regime changes that occurred in the initial phase of hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. They include refurbishing schools, building roads, digging wells, and treating the sick. These civic action programs alone are not unlike similar counterinsurgency initiatives by the British, French, Portuguese, or even the United States in years past.1

What is different today is the degree to which American power is being applied not just to the conventional hearts and minds campaigns but also what is termed nation building and democracy promotion. On this macro-level, the elements of democracy include free and fair elections, political parties and campaigns, independent media, and public discourse. In Afghanistan and Iraq, American power is being wielded for the revolutionary goal of transforming authoritarian societies along democratic lines. In both countries—but especially in fissiparous Iraq—the U.S.-led coalition worked, and is working, to preserve the territorial integrity of the battered lands. Iraq’s well-publicized ethno-religious divisions between the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish populations hardly need elaboration, except to emphasize the additional burdens placed on post-Saddam Hussein counterinsurgency forces to counter secessionist pulls.

These political endeavors transcend the traditional application of America power. As Russell F. Weigley wrote in his classic book “the strategy of annihilation became characteristic of the American way of war.” 2 In short, American power has been exerted to build and preserve, not just to annihilate. Future engagements promise similar political considerations.

On the micro-level, specific U.S. and coalition units within Iraq and Afghanistan have sought—and do seek—to ameliorate harsh or deprived living conditions of the indigenous populations. The efforts encompassed a series of health and welfare efforts to include medical treatment, potable water, job opportunities, and even electricity production to run air conditioners in the inferno summer months. These and similar civic action programs represent the obverse side of the counterinsurgency political coin. It is a crucial dimension in counterguerrilla campaigns. But the reverse side of this coin is one less discussed. It involves no effort to win over those caught in the crossfire of insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare, whether by bullet or broadcast.

On the contrary, this underside of the counterinsurgency coin is calculated to exploit or create divisions among adversaries for the purpose of fomenting enemy-on-enemy deadly encounters. It is an unconventional yet necessary component of this shadowy form of battle against an elusive adversary that does not stand and fight. Rather, in the insurgency dimension of the current anti-terrorist campaign, small groups of Special Operations Forces will continue to find themselves up against bands of insurgents in societies marked by tribal and sectional differences that could be turned to the advantage of special operators. Africa, Central Asia, the Philippines and elsewhere have witnessed the deployment of SOF to counter Islamic extremists. As such, understanding and leveraging inherent human fault lines to counter terrorism is like the joker in card games; it can substitute for the “card” of greater numbers and greater firepower. It is ideally suited to the world of stealth and countersubversion.

Dividing and Defeating

Sowing divisions among enemies is as old as warfare. By the time Niccolò Machiavelli cited the ancient political maxim divide et impera, the strategy of dividing to conquer had long become accepted practice in statecraft and warfare. The tactics associated with pitting one enemy against another have not been ignored by U.S. military forces. But they have often been subordinated to the American way of war that relied on massive firepower, as characterized in both World Wars, the Korean War, first and second Persian Gulf Wars, and much of the Vietnam War. The global struggle against violent extremism presents a highly political conflict where overwhelming supporting fire is less applicable. By the same token, the extreme ideological and political divisions among the terrorists and insurgents open chinks to clever and adaptable forces. Terrorists and their intellectual backers, whether they be commentators, columnists, or clerics, have profound doctrinal and agenda differences.3

From the founding of the United States, Washington governments, in fact, have relied on subterfuge, skullduggery, and secret operations to advance American interests. Even in the midst of America’s greatest conventional war of the twentieth century, the United States resorted to covert operations under the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS along with British intelligence services, for instance, aided the French resistance to disrupt the German occupation and to prepare for Europe’s liberation. The Cold War also witnessed clandestine missions. United States and its allies mount diversionary efforts to confound and divide their enemies. And American adversaries likewise staged secret missions against the United States, its allies and interests.4 Having the nation’s enemies eliminate each other has obvious advantages. When divisions were absent, American operators instigated them.

Among this generation’s incarnations of this divisive strategy, which took place during the Vietnam War, was the fabrication of a fictitious resistance movement entitled the Sacred Sword of the Patriots League (SSPL). While stood up by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1962, the SSPL was handed off to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam’s Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG or SOG). Special Forces officers assumed oversight of SSPL and other covert operations aimed at North Vietnam. As noted by Richard H. Shultz, Jr. in his masterful book, the purpose of the SSPL “was to foster the impression that a well-organized resistance was active in North Vietnam.” 5 SOG conducted a spate of covert operations, psychological operations, and deceptions to throw North Vietnam off balance. SOG operators sought through their Diversionary Program, code-named Forae, to convince Hanoi that teams of enemy agents had penetrated deep into its territory. The deception sought to disrupt the North Vietnamese rear, by taking advantage of the communist’s regime’s well-known paranoia about spies and saboteurs.

While SOG had unheralded successes as well as serious setbacks during its operations spanning from 1964 to 1972, it constantly ran against impediments from senior military officers, State Department, and the Lyndon Johnson White House. The timidity and bureaucratic obstacles hampered operations and constrained missions to narrow agendas. With the SSPL venture, SOG took pains to raise a bogus “fifth column” within totalitarian North Vietnam in order to spark a witch-hunt amongst the communist party and the military command that would impair Hanoi’s support of the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. Given the commanding attention devoted to internal security—with overlapping police apparatuses, informants, and population control measures—communist societies were generally labeled as denied areas for covert paramilitary operations because of their impenetrable nature. SOG’s phantom league offered a means to circumvent Hanoi’s home-front safeguards.

Divisions in Afghanistan and Iraq

The Soviet era’s virtually inaccessible societies are a universe apart from present-day Afghanistan and Iraq, where tribal loyalties, local attachments, shifting alliances, ethnic antagonism, and religious hatreds abound. During the Soviet era, Marxist-Leninist regimes touted the classless society by which only the working class and their vanguard (the communist party) were said to exist. The aristocracy, bourgeoisie, and the capitalists were liquidated. This imposed uniformity furthered totalitarian control of vast populations, although all communist societies were marked by hierarchies and privileges, especially for party members. Other despotic dispensations resort to different means to maintain power, however.

Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Iraq, and many of countries in the region and beyond, the regimes play on ethnic and religious differences to maintain power. In their own version of dividing-to-rule, pre-U.S. invasion governments in Afghanistan and Iraq indeed deepened factional divides, which left them vulnerable to foreign manipulation that facilitated regime change.

The deep divisions within prewar Afghanistan worked to the U.S.- coalition’s military advantage. The mountainous country’s steep valleys and high peaks contributed to the isolation that produced factionalism and warlordism throughout its history. The 1979 Soviet invasion acted to coalesce Afghan tribesmen, urban dwellers, and religious clerics against the Red Army and their local allies. Aided by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China, as well as the United States, the Afghan resistance wore down the invading Soviet military and compelled Moscow to pull out of the inhospitable country in 1989. The Kremlin left behind a Soviet puppet, Mohammed Najibullah, a sadistic intelligence chief, who held out until April 1992, when his regime crumbled. Without an external threat to unify the onetime Afghan resistance, the insurgent bands fell to fighting among themselves, and Afghanistan plunged into anarchy.

Demobilized fighters banded together under warlords to battle other local armies. In the ensuing chaotic fighting, Kabul fell to an alliance of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other non-Pashtun groups representing the first time in three hundred years that the dominant Pashtuns lost control of the capital. Burhanuddin Rabbani, a Tajik, emerged from a power struggle to head an uneasy alliance of northern warlords and presided from Kabul over an unruly country beset with brigands and cutthroats.6

The Taliban (“the students”) movement took up arms to end the internecine conflict and lawlessness. Led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, a veteran of the Soviet war, the Taliban adhered to an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam, which they strictly enforced on themselves and others. Based mainly among the Pashtuns and nurtured by Pakistan, which wanted to influence events in Afghanistan, the Taliban accrued arms and martial skills from Pakistani benefactors.7 Sympathetic elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, provided assistance to the poorly trained and armed ragtag Taliban militias.

By the end of 1996, the Taliban prevailed over the northern warlords and seized the main cities including the sprawling, mountain-ringed capital where the ousted Rabbani government had ruled. By force of arms, the Taliban fighters imposed a semblance of order, if not enlightened progress, in most of the country. Fed up with years of lawlessness, many Afghans acquiesced toward or embraced the Taliban as a necessary evil to restore civil stability.

The Taliban’s military success and their religiosity attracted sympathizers and financial supporters from the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere. Estranged from his base in Sudan, Osama bin Laden and some 150 henchmen, moved to Afghanistan in the months preceding the Taliban capture of Kabul. In Afghanistan, bin Laden morphed from terrorist financier to terrorist mastermind. The Saudi-exile set up terrorist training camps, instigated the bombings of the two U.S. embassies in East Africa along with the USS Cole, and launched the “planes operation” against the United States.

For this part, Rabbani and his cohorts escaped to a tiny wedge of territory northeast of the capital in the Panjshir Valley to carry on their anti-Pashtun struggle as the Northern Alliance. This loose network of Taliban opponents afforded the United States a ready-made ally to attack the theocratic government in Kabul, which played host to al Qaeda. Unlike SOG’s subversive operations against North Vietnam, the United States did not have to fabricate an opposition front. What’s more the Central Intelligence Agency still had liaisons with Soviet-era resistance fighters in Afghanistan, which afforded CIA and Special Forces operators invaluable contacts within the mountainous society.8 They bribed, armed, and somewhat organized the fiercely nationalistic Northern Alliance into a tactical ally and proxy force. In times past, they would have opposed a U.S. invasion but now America was the enemy of their enemy, and thus a friend.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States launched a counter attack on Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan. A month after the air bombardment began on October 7th, senior U.S. military officers briefly floated the idea for the Americanization of the proposed ground war with scenarios for deploying some 55,000 troops. That huge number and the logistical nightmare of resupplying them led to the reliance on airpower, Special Forces, and the Northern Alliance to bring down the Taliban regime. Along with directing precision-guided munitions on Taliban and al Qaeda targets, SOF units undertook a variety of missions—to secure airports, cut roads, and attack fleeing militiamen—that preceded deployment of troops from the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army units. This strategy spared the United States from fielding a huge ground force.9 Additionally, SOF and CIA worked among warlords in the north and the Pashtuns, the southeastern Afghan community, to split them from Taliban rulers.10 By convincing and bribing disgruntled northern chieftains and Pashtun leaders, whose communities formed the Mullah Omar’s backbone, either to switch sides or withhold support from the Kabul regime, operators and agents splintered the Taliban allies.

That the “Afghan Model” can be exactly replicated to other settings is open to doubt because Taliban-ruled Afghanistan constituted a unique set of historical and political circumstances.11 But the model of dividing disaffected elements from a regime is certainly a historically viable stratagem. Many states in Africa, Central Asia or even the Philippines where SOF are deployed in counterterrorism operations possess ethnic, religious, or sectional division.

Iraq. Iraq presented another stark illustration of ethnic and religious cleavages put to the use of a ruling party. The Baathist Party, a secular and state socialist movement, ruled Iraq as a police state for decades by relying on the Sunni population, which made up about 20 percent of the country’s population, to suppress the Shiite majority (some 60 percent of Iraq), the Kurds (less than 20 percent), and many other smaller segments of the populace. President Saddam Hussein wielded the purse and the dagger like a Mafia don to buy patronage or to eliminate opposition. His power plays left him vulnerable among excluded communities when the U.S.-led multinational coalition invaded. In addition to their commando-style missions of securing oil wells and neutralizing missile batteries in western Iraq, SOF played a vital role converting Hussein’s Kurdish opponents to an American asset during the invasion phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Henriksen points out that exacerbating Sunni–Shia division would contravene our vision for a viable democratic government in Iraq, but that in line with our global campaign against terrorist extremists, exploiting the rivalries or animosities among the insurgent bands clearly meets our goals.


The story of Special Operations Forces in capitalizing on and widening divisions within our enemy’s ranks is better known in Afghanistan than during Operation Iraqi Freedom and in post-invasion Iraq. The Taliban-Northern Alliance conflict was well known to outsiders. Washington’s massive support to the anti-Taliban alliance also received saturation news coverage. Yet, the effort of dividing our enemies in Iraq affords worthy case studies in divisive tactics. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S.-led invasion benefited from the prewar contacts with the Kurds in northern Iraq. After the Persian Gulf War, the United States went to the aid of the Kurdish population in Operation Provide Comfort. Later, the CIA instigated a Kurdish revolt in the mid-1990s.12

When Turkish government blocked the transit of the 4th Infantry Division across its territory into Iraq in early 2003, the decision hampered the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Working with Kurdish political leadership, the United States instead landed light forces in northern Iraq. Two battalions from the 173rd Airborne Brigade rolled into Kirkuk on the heels of Kurdish uprisings that ousted Iraqi army units from the major regional city and nearby oil fields. The paratroopers met no opposition because the Kurdish peshmerga militias cleared the area of the retreating Iraqis. The airborne soldiers and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit reinforced the SOF units operating in northern Iraq and pressured Saddam Hussein’s forces to the south in another example of turning to internal divisions to bring down adversarial regime. As in Afghanistan, the historical splits within Iraq aided SOF and regular coalition forces. Both U.S. interventions seized upon existing geopolitical opportunities. As such, they may not be readily repeatable. But they provide insight into smaller-scale instances of generating red-on-red conflicts. It is these type of forays that can be executed at the operational and tactical level that demanded greater attention and afford lessons for future use to field operatives.

Red-on-Red Conflicts

The post-invasion phase in Iraq provides an interesting case study of fanning internecine discontent among enemies, leading to red-against-red firefights. Events during fall 2004 within the central Iraqi city of Fallujah showcased the clever machinations required to set insurgents battling insurgents. Ensconced within the Sunni Triangle, which early on had developed into anti-coalition stronghold, Fallujah played a prominent part in the rising chain of bombings, beheadings, and shootings of Iraqi, U.S. civilian and military personnel, and other non-Iraqi residents. A brief background is required prior to describing the events within Fallujah in late 2004.

Following the murder and dismemberment of four private contractors by a mob in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, U.S. Marines laid siege to the city that had become a hotbed of anti-American resistance. After three days fighting, the Marines penetrated deeply into the city with only six dead. Yet the attack became controversial owing to noncombatant casualties, destruction of buildings, and the local sentiment that it had been motivated by revenge for the grisly deaths of the four security personnel. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.’s recently named envoy to Iraq, accused U.S. military commanders of meting out collective punishment. Ordered to halt the offensive, the Marines broke off their attack. A three-week stalemate ensued. As a gesture toward Iraqification, the local U.S. commanders pulled back and handed over security responsibilities to the city’s residents.13

Authority was vested in a Baathist-run Fallujah Brigade to police the town and restore order. This high-risk gamble of cooptation instead of confrontation proved in the longer run to be a mistake and a failure. It also supplies a cautionary footnote for those trying to convert rabid enemies to brothers in arms. The attempt angered Kurdish and Shiite leaders. More gravely, it checked the use of American power on the verge of annihilating the coalition’s foe. Officered by former Republican Guard generals, the Fallujah Brigade proclaimed victory over the Marines, collaborated with the insurgents, surrendered the Marine-supplied weapons and trucks to the insurgents, and turned a hotspot into the epicenter of the insurgency.14 Fallujah became a “no-go” zone for U.S. forces, a terrorist safe haven, and the headquarters of the notorious Jordanian-born Palestinian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, who orchestrated multiple car bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings of American, Iraqis, and foreigners. In sum the city of 250,000 inhabitants descended to a Taliban-like polity of Islamic extremism. As a consequence, Fallujah represented the greatest single military setback to the counterinsurgency campaign to date.

A remarkable proportion of the violence taking place in Iraq is regularly credited to the Jordanian Ahmad al-Khalayleh, better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and his organization Al Qaeda in Iraq. Sometimes it seems no car bomb goes off, no ambush occurs that isn't claimed in his name or attributed to him by the Bush administration. Bush and his top officials have, in fact, made good use of him, lifting his reputed feats of terrorism to epic, even mythic, proportions (much aided by various mainstream media outlets). Given that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be based upon administration lies and manipulations, I had begun to wonder if the vaunted Zarqawi even existed.

In Amman, where I was recently based, random interviews with Jordanians only generated more questions and no answers about Zarqawi. As it happens, though, the Jordanian capital is just a short cab ride from Zarqa, the city Zarqawi is said to be from. So I decided to slake my curiosity about him by traveling there and nosing around his old neighborhood.

"Zarqawi, I don't even know if he exists," said a scruffy taxi driver in Amman and his was a typical comment. "He's like Bin Laden, we don't even know if he exists; but if he does, I support that he fights the U.S. occupation of Iraq."

Chatting with a man sipping tea in a small tea stall in downtown Amman, I asked what he thought of Zarqawi. He was convinced that Zarqawi was perfectly real, but the idea that he was responsible for such a wide range of attacks in Iraq had to be "nonsense."

"The Americans are using him for their propaganda," he insisted. "Think about it -- with all of their power and intelligence capabilities -- they cannot find one man?"

Like so many others in neighboring Jordan, he, too, offered verbal support for the armed resistance in Iraq, adding, "Besides, it is any person's right to defend himself if his country is invaded. The American occupation of Iraq has destabilized the entire region."

The Bush administration has regularly claimed that Zarqawi was in -- and then had just barely escaped from -- whatever city or area they were next intent on attacking or cordoning off or launching a campaign against. Last year, he and his organization were reputed to be headquartered in Fallujah, prior to the American assault that flattened the city. At one point, American officials even alleged that he was commanding the defense of Fallujah from elsewhere by telephone. Yet he also allegedly slipped out of Fallujah either just before or just after the beginning of the assault, depending on which media outlet or military press release you read.

He has since turned up, according to American intelligence reports and the U.S. press, in Ramadi, Baghdad, Samarra, and Mosul among other places, along with side trips to Jordan, Iran, Pakistan and/or Syria. His closest "lieutenants" have been captured by the busload, according to American military reports, and yet he always seems to have a bottomless supply of them. In May, a news report on the BBC even called Zarqawi "the leader of the insurgency in Iraq," though more sober analysts of the chaotic Iraqi situation say his group, Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad, while probably modest in size and reach is linked to a global network of jihadists. However, finding any figures as to the exact size of the group remains an elusive task.

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell offered photos before the U.N. in February, 2003 of Zarqawi's "headquarters" in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, also claiming that Zarqawi had links to Al-Qaeda. The collection of small huts was bombed to the ground by U.S. forces in March of that year, prompting one news source to claim that Zarqawi had been killed. Yet seemingly contradicting Powell's claims for Zarqawi's importance was a statement made in October, 2004 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who conceded that Zarqawi's ties to Al Qaeda may have been far more ambiguous, that he may have been more of a rival than a lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. "Someone could legitimately say he's not Al Qaeda," added Rumsfeld.

-- The Zarqawi Phenomenon, by Dahr Jamail


The Fullujah episode highlights one of the paradoxes in the application of raw military might. Custom and international law sanctions the wielding of military force against enemy combatants. Thus, the “shock and awe” operations conformed to accepted practices, particularly since the U.S. attackers minimized “collateral damage,” i.e. harm to innocent civilians. But the United States was unable to use its full strength to achieve security in the occupation phase without inflicting many casualties among the noncombatant population. Counterinsurgency campaigns demand the use of discriminating firepower to hit insurgents without undue civilian deaths. Otherwise, the general population sides with the underground fighters and against the occupiers. Calibrating proportionate counterattacks to guerrilla provocations of hit-and-run attacks, suicide bombings, and other nonconventional tactics is a tricky business. Too little force allows the insurgent to survive and too much can generate fresh recruits to the insurgent cause. The dilemma lies at the heart of waging counterinsurgency campaigns. In addition, it points again to the overwhelming political aspect of counterinsurgent warfare.

After the return of local sovereignty to Fullujah residents, the central Iraqi city seethed with intramural tensions among the anticoalition inhabitants. Lying at the heart of Sunni resistance to the American-led coalition, Fullujah brimmed with anti-Americanism. Entering the city became hazardous for U.S. troops, which lacked allied Iraqi police or military forces in the city that months earlier had passed under thrall of anti-U.S. forces.

Zarqawi used Fallujah as center for his countrywide insurgency. It was the hub to his spokes, so to speak. Not all Fallujah residents were enamored with Iraq’s chief terrorist’s operations. Zarqawi’s Salafi beliefs grated on men who did not want to grow beards or women to cover their hair. The strict Salafi outlook clashed with the more moderate and different Sufi views of the residents, such as praying at the graves of relatives, which the Salafis regard as blasphemous. This division occurred between Sunni peoples.

Among this generation’s incarnations of this divisive strategy, which took place during the Vietnam War, was the fabrication of a fictitious resistance movement entitled the Sacred Sword of the Patriots League (SSPL). While stood up by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1962, the SSPL was handed off to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam’s Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG or SOG). Special Forces officers assumed oversight of SSPL and other covert operations aimed at North Vietnam. As noted by Richard H. Shultz, Jr. in his masterful book, the purpose of the SSPL “was to foster the impression that a well-organized resistance was active in North Vietnam.” 5 SOG conducted a spate of covert operations, psychological operations, and deceptions to throw North Vietnam off balance. SOG operators sought through their Diversionary Program, code-named Forae, to convince Hanoi that teams of enemy agents had penetrated deep into its territory. The deception sought to disrupt the North Vietnamese rear, by taking advantage of the communist’s regime’s well-known paranoia about spies and saboteurs.


Additionally, the Zarqawi jihidis and the nationalistic Fallujahans disagreed over the use of terror tactics. Both wanted the Americans out of the Fallujah and out of Iraq; but they disagreed on the tactics. Many of the city’s inhabitants opposed kidnappings of foreign journalists, indiscriminate bombings that killed Iraqis, and sabotage that blew up infrastructure benefiting fellow citizens. They believed that the jihadi tactics incurred undo coalition attention toward Fullujah to preempt the attacks. The nationalistic Iraqis as embodied in the Mujaheddin Shura Council, made up of 18 clerics, tribal chiefs, and former Baathist Party members, opposed Zarqawi for his tactics. The council’s head Abdulaziz al-Janabi even called Zarqawi a “criminal.”

Evidence of factional fighting between the residents came to light with nightly gun battles not involving coalition forces.15 These firefights between insurgent factions represented the impact of U.S. psychological operations (PSYOP), which took advantage of and deepened the intra-insurgent forces. The PSYOP contingent cleverly crafted programs to exploit Zarqawi’s murderous activities and to broadcast them countrywide, thereby diminishing his folk-hero image among Iraqis.

Although the jihadis and Baathists shared hostility to the U.S. military forces surrounding Fallujah, their mutual antipathy to each other presented an opportunity [to] turn them against each other. Gun fights among enemy combatants worked to the obvious advantage of friendly forces, American and Iraqi. Battles among anti-coalition forces caused casualties, killed enemy combatants, and heightened factionalism thereby weakening the insurgents. In short, red-on-red battles can enhance the conventional blue-on-red engagements, which characterized much of the insurgency action in post-Hussein Iraq.

Other urban centers also witnessed hostility between secular insurgents and Muslim extremists—some of them within Al Qaeda affiliates. The divisions occurred over the practice of killing and maiming innocent Iraqis by bombings. In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, anti-extremists hung posters on walls and handed out flyers in mosques denouncing the jihadi tactics. In Baghdad, in the mainly Sunni section of Azamiyah, anti-coalition insurgents pulled down Al Qaeda banners from walls and streetlights.16 Within at least Fallujah, U.S. psychological warfare warriors took advantage of the insurgent infighting.

Information from the Joint PSYOP Task Force, 8th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group out of Fort Bragg provided a case study in seizing on the splits between anti-coalition elements and turning them to good account. By tapping into the Fallujans’ revulsion and antagonism to the Zarqawi jihidis the Joint PSYOP Task Force did its “best to foster a rift between Sunni groups.” 17 The Joint PSYOP Task Force promoted the split by appeals to the Fallujans through meetings, radio and televisions broadcasts, and posters. It also distributed political cartoons depicting Zarqawi as a murderer of Muslim. One cartoon unflatteringly caricatured Zarqawi with a bandolier over his shoulder and standing amid piles of skulls. The caption read: “I will kill, slaughter and kidnap more and more humans to satisfy my desires and be worthy to receive the title of murderer.” 18 SOF units also disseminated handbills showing Zarqawi surrounded by rats. Obviously, for these and other psychological methods to resonate with the Iraqi population, there had to budding divisions between nationalistic type insurgents and jihadi elements within Sunni-dominated Fullujah. This campaign did not endanger the larger U.S. mission of trying to dampen down conflicts between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam to preserve Iraq’s territorial unity.

The psychological warfare experts also undertook a spectrum of activities to develop and strengthen trust between Iraqis and coalition forces and intensify local opposition to Al Qaeda and its Iraqi subsidiaries. They employed radio and television spots, conducted interviews with newspaper reporters, distributed handouts, utilized loudspeakers, posted Internet messages and held face-to-face briefings with tribal, political and religious leaders. After U.S. and Iraqi forces retook Fallujah, the Joint PSYOP Task Force played up the fact that Zarqawi fled before the fighting, leaving his fellow jihadis and many more Baathist insurgents to face the coalition’s fury.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Like the warning in the physicians’ Hippocratic oath, SOF and PSYOP troops must beware of doing more harm than good when planning to foment or benefit from infighting within enemy ranks. Exacerbating the Sunni-Shia divisions, for instance, would contravene strategic aims in Iraq and stated policy of Iraqi political leaders. But exploiting the rivalries or animosities among insurgent bands as the case in Fullujah or other anti-coalition havens is well within coalition goals and the rules of warfare. Devising techniques to instigate red-on-red conflicts is worthy of study, codification, and analysis. A deep understanding of the political landscape that derives from intelligence, experience, and study is, first and foremost, a requirement for this type of operation. In applying this complex tactic, SOF should not just be consumers of data but also first-hand providers of intelligence on potential divisions among red forces. In addition, they should take the lead in encouraging and assisting line units to gather and disseminate political information as well as the regular military intelligence.

As with other weapons, orchestrating red-on-red clashes has an apt time and place for employment. All hostile environments will not accommodate its application. But as another arrow in counterterror quiver, it can, when launched deftly, be discriminating and lethal.

_______________

Notes:

1. Thomas H. Henriksen, Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambique’s War of Independence 1964-74. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983; Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-62. New York: Penguin Books, 1977; and J. Paul de B. Taillon, The Evolution of Special Forces in Counter-Terrorism: The British and American Experience. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2001.

2. Russell F. Weigly, The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy (1973; reprint Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), page xxii.

3. The literature on this topic is vast. Two summaries can be found in Marc Segeman, Understanding Terrorist Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004), especially chapters One and Two and Trevor Stanley, “Understanding the Origins of Wahhabism and Salafism,” TerrorismMonitor (the Jamestown Foundation), Volume III, Issue 14 (July 15, 2005), pages 8-10.

4. Thomas H. Henriksen, “Covert Operations, Now More Than Ever,” Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, Volume 44, Number 1 (Winter, 2000), pages 145-56; John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations From World War II Through The Persian Gulf War. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996; and Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

5. Richard H. Shultz, Jr., The Secret War Against Hanoi: Kennedy’s and Johnson’s Use of Spies, Saboteurs, Covert Warriors in North Vietnam (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), page 64.

6. Olivier Roy, Afghanistan: From Holy War to Civil War (Princeton: New Jersey: Darwin Press, Inc., 1995), pages 103-09.

7. Larry P. Goodson, Afghanistan’s Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban (Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 2001) pages 76, 106, 111.

8. Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), pages 458-59.

9. Eric Micheletti, Special Forces: War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, 2001- 2003 (Paris: Histoire & Collections, 2004), pages 6-12.

10. David Pugliese, Shadow Wars: Special Forces in the New Battle Against Terrorism (Ottawa, Ontario: Esprit de Corps Books, 2003), page 22.

11. For a sober analysis see, Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan and the Future of Warfare: Implication for Army and Defense Policy (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, 2002.

12. Robert Baer, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002), pages 171-237.

13. Patrick J. McDonnell, “Outgoing Marine General Faults Fallouja Strategy,” Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2004, page A1.

14. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Key General Criticizes April Attack In Fallujah,” Washington Post, September 13, 2004, page A 17.

15. Patrick J. McDonnell.

16. Hamza Hendawi, “Insurgents Show Hostility To Extremists,” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 10, 2005, page 1.

17. Telephone interview with LTC Michael Ceroli, former commander Joint PSYOP Task Force, 8th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group, June 1, 2005.

18. Materials provided from Joint PSYOP Task Force, 8th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group.
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:52 am



HOW PERPETUAL WAR FUELS TERRORISM
by Brave New Films

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BRAVE NEW FILMS

NEW FILMS EVERY WEEK

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[President Obama] We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country where they are.

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[Narrator] Yet another war in the middle east to stop terrorism?

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HOW DOES THIS END?

Since 1980, we have militarily intervened at least 35 times in over 27 countries ...

LIBYA COLUMBIA PANAMA IRAQ AFGHANISTAN GRENADA

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But we're no safer as a result, because ...

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PERPETUAL WAR FUELS TERRORISM.

And yet, in Syria, the plan is to ramp up ...

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[President Obama] military assistance to the Syrian opposition.

But we've tried arming "friendly" rebels before. We armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.

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They later became al Qaeda and the Taliban. They not only attacked us ...

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but terrorized their own people. And in Iraq, we will ...

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[President Obama] conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists.

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This strategy is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

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[Narrator] We ramped up strikes in Yemen in 2009.

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Since then, the country has seen more terrorist attacks, not fewer.

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Terrorist attacks in Somalia also keep increasing.

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When we only respond with military force today, we create tomorrow's enemies.

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[Imran Khan, Member of Pakistan National Assembly] All that it is doing is increasing militancy and hatred and anti-Americanism.

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Tell me how we're winning if every time we kill one we create 10?

[Narrator] Perpetual war does not make the world safer.

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PRESIDENT OBAMA NEEDS TO STOP AND THINK.

Share this because President Obama needs to stop and think.

HOW DOES THIS END?

CALL YOUR SENATOR

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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:54 am

We're Forgetting Something Ghastly About al-Nusra Front
by Raed Omari
Saturday, 6 September 2014

The terrorism-plagued Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese are pinning hopes on the NATO Summit for a U.S.-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The summit is also of prime significance for the grieving families of slain American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, needless of course, to say why. Not only those, all good-hearted people of the world, mainly Muslims, are also dreaming of an end to this unsurpassed brutality and violence. In any case, this is not Islam.

Now for the high-profile world gathering to coincide with a set of developments, ranging from the stomach-turning beheading of Sotloff by ISIS to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s videoed announcement of his militia’s Indian branch, much is expected in the outcome.

Remarkably enough, ISIS’ videotaped beheading of Sotloff and Zawahiri’s announcement of the al-Qaeda’s new branch on the Indian subcontinent were released at a time when world leaders were on their way to Newport, Wales for a high-profile summit with terrorism being the third major topic on its agenda. Accepting the challenge, President Barack Obama has pledged to punish, degrade and destroy ISIS, with his Vice president Joe Biden fierily vowing to follow the Islamist militia to _____. “Similar remarks” were also made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who voiced America’s determination to hunt down Sotloff’s killers.

With the Russian escalation in Ukraine and the NATO forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan topping the agenda of the summit, ISIS’ alarming threat is surely to be highlighted in the final Communiqué. In other words, the coalition against ISIS may not be announced following the meeting but may be formed soon somewhere else.

Coalition against ISIS

In my estimation, the coalition against ISIS was already formed long before the periodical summit – maybe following Foley‘s execution. The meeting of the 28-member alliance and their partners would be a chance to agree on the best course of action, logistics and intelligence plans regarding the campaign on ISIS.

However, it seems that ISIS is the main focus in the resurrected U.S.-led war on terror. What about al-Nusra Front? Why is the al-Qaeda affiliate not mentioned – or inadequately mentioned – in the international rhetoric on terror?

The world re-shifting focus on only ISIS is indeed understandable with regard to the radical group’s large-scale military operations and brutal atrocities, manifesting themselves in the persecution of minorities and mass killings, among others.

In comparison, al-Nusra Front has suffered from intra-rebel conflicts in addition to the defection of hundreds of its members to the ground-gaining ISIS with regard to the latter’s speedy capture of territories and its advanced weaponry. But the Nusra Front has achieved a series of victories over the last few weeks and, inasmuch as the influence of the al-Qaeda-inspired ISIS is much seen in Iraq and Syria, Lebanon is where the al-Qaeda affiliate’s activity can be spotted.

Lebanon is so far al-Nusra Front’s major domain in addition to other regions along the Syrian-Turkish border and the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. One major proof for al-Nusra Front’s high proportion in the region’s "mosaic of militias," so to speak, is the detention of several U.N. Fiji peacekeepers whose release it has linked to removing the al-Qaeda affiliate from the U.N.’s list of terrorist organizations.

Al-Nusra Front has so far presented a radical approach that is considerably moderate when compared with that of ISIS. However, this "leniency" is nothing more than a strategic tactic the Nusra has been employing to balance its disputes with ISIS. According to Hassan Abu Haniyeh, a renowned researcher in Islamist groups, al-Nusra Front was originally part of the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, from which ISIS sprung, but has refrained from unveiling its true identity due to concerns about straining its relationships with other rebel groups in Syria and angering external powers. This low-profile approach by al-Nusra was the reason behind ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s announcement of his organization’s disengagement from al-Qaeda, Abu Haniyeh said.

In brief, ISIS and al-Nusra are just two sides of the same coin with their claimed differences and disputes being on tactics rather than ideology. In other words, during a time of heavy bombardment of the ISIS posts in Syria and Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition or America alone, al-Nusra Front might be a safe haven for ISIS fighters.

At such a time, however, things would fall apart, as it would be very difficult to differentiate between Nusra and ISIS as was the case between al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

With world leaders discussing mechanisms to eliminate ISIS in Wales, it has to be made clear that the Islamist militia and the Nusra Front are just outcomes of the crises in Syria, Iraq and also Lebanon. In the absence of a comprehensive solution to these regional dilemmas, ISIS would expand into an international organization with branches in the MENA region, Asia or Europe.

The U.S. has heavily bombarded al-Qaeda in Afghanistan using Cruise and Tomahawk missiles and B-52 bombers but has not entirely eliminated the radical organization. The same will happen in the U.S.-led war against ISIS should the same strategies remain unchanged.

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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2
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Re: Practice of Beheading Not Limited to Islamic State

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:55 am

Who's a "Moderate" Rebel in Syria? Check the Handwritten Receipts
The government has little oversight over whether US-funded supplies are falling prey to corruption—or into the hands of extremists.
by Dana Liebelson
September 12, 2013

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Daniel Leal-Olivas/ZUMA

In recent weeks, the Obama administration and hawks favoring a strike on Syria have called for the continued support of supposedly moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime. The United States has been sending millions of dollars in nonlethal aid to the rebels since February, and in June President Obama authorized secretly supplying weapons to opposition fighters. But with hundreds of Syrian rebel groups battling the regime—ranging from the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) to the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front—can the administration ensure that US aid is not winding up in the wrong hands? A system designed to monitor the disbursement of nonlethal supplies to the rebels is supposed to make sure assistance goes only to vetted fighters—but, according to government oversight experts, it relies on too much good faith.

The Syrian Support Group, a US-based nonprofit that is the only organization the Obama administration has authorized to hand out nonlethal US-funded supplies to the rebels, insists it keeps track of who's receiving this assistance based on handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field. According to Dan Layman, a spokesman for the group, this level of oversight is sufficient to guarantee US assistance is going to the right rebels and is being used appropriately. "What we're getting from [FSA commanders] in receipts directly reflects what's been given out and to whom, I'm very confident," he says. "The government regularly asks us for updates and new receipts, often faster than we can produce them." Layman doesn't know if or how the US government verifies these receipts.

Khalid Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, the chief political body representing the US-backed rebel forces, says countries supporting the rebels are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies, but he adds that he "cannot comment on which countries are performing the audits." The State Department did not respond to questions from Mother Jones.

In 2012, Brian Sayers, then the Washington lobbyist for the Syrian Support Group, told McClatchy that "obviously, it's always going to be difficult to say who's the end user for every cent, every dollar, but we don't see that the military councils will provide funds to the fringe groups." Relying on local commanders to guarantee US assistance is managed effectively could lead to "massive corruption," warns Aki Peritz, a senior policy adviser for Third Way and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst. Peritz notes that the supplies being handed out by the Syrian Support Group can be sold for cash or traded for weapons and ammunition.

Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a former commissioner for the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, says that in war zones, "it's in a commander's interest to give exaggerated numbers. We often see situations where a commander starts out with, say, three brigades, and then drops to one brigade, and continues to faithfully give receipts for the other two missing units. We call them 'ghost employees.'" He adds, "I think Syria is the Wild, Wild West as far as knowing who is doing what."

Here's how the nonlethal aid system works. On April 30, the Syrian Support Group began receiving State Department contracts, worth about $12 million so far, to deliver supplies—including MREs, combat casualty bags, and surgical equipment—directly to Syria's Supreme Military Council, the group that runs the Free Syrian Army and commands more than 560 military brigades. The US-based Syrian Support Group transports the supplies to the main Supreme Military Council warehouses*, and from there the the SMC takes over distribution. (The Syrian Support Group has also donated about $300,000 to $500,000 in cash to the rebels, but that money comes from private donors, not the US government.)

Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, says that "the concern that lethal and nonlethal aid not fall into the wrong hands is shared by our coalition." He says that every FSA brigade must meet certain conditions, including abiding by the FSA's constitution, not having children or foreigners in their units, and accepting regular audits by the Supreme Military Council and countries providing aid.

The FSA's top general, Salim Idriss, and his senior commanders are technically responsible for vetting the hundreds of FSA military brigades receiving US-underwritten supplies, but some of this work falls to province-level military councils and lower-level commanders at field offices around the war-torn country. "A commander from a particular area will authorize a group of soldiers to go to a Supreme Military Council warehouse, and then write a detailed receipt saying this unit picked up three crates of MRE rations from the warehouse," Layman explains. The receipts are signed by the commander of the unit picking up the supplies and the local warehouse director, who is also under the command of the Supreme Military Council. Layman notes that his organization confers with senior commanders daily and has a staffer in Syria (a former Pentagon employee) who is responsible for oversight.

"The field-level offices talk directly to the Supreme Military Council staff, and the staff figures out exactly how much aid a certain brigade needs from the warehouse based on its size and combat activity," Layman adds. "We'll often see receipts that say a group has received only three or four cartons of MREs, so I don't believe there's any abuse of access to supplies."

Tiefer, the former Commission on Wartime Contracting commissioner, says ensuring proper oversight requires more "than just fiddling with a receipt system." He recommends that the US government establish an oversight body to monitor State Department aid to Syria, or assign this oversight responsibility to an existing inspector general.

Given the makeup of the Syrian opposition forces, there is a good chance that some US assistance could find its way into the wrong hands. There are up to 150,000 rebel fighters in Syria, some of whom are not affiliated with FSA, and at least 16 percent of the rebels are considered "radical," according to the Syrian Support Group's own estimate. "When I worked at the [CIA's] counterterrorism center, for Iraq we estimated that Al Qaeda made up 8 percent of the insurgency," says Peritz. "This is way worse—this means there are at least 15,000 extremists in Syria."

US assistance ending up with radical elements of the opposition is not the only problem; this aid could also reach rebels committing atrocities. Last week, the New York Times posted a video of what it reported to be FSA-armed rebels executing shirtless prisoners. The Syrian Support Group issued a statement disputing the Times report, claiming the rebels in the video were from a non-SMC affiliated outfit that did not receive any supplies or funding from the Supreme Military Council.

This spring, one militia leader affiliated with the FSA—his brigade has since been kicked out—was filmed eating a dead soldier's heart. "This stuff happens rarely, but it's unfortunate," Layman says. "With the guy who was eating a heart, he was part of a moderate faction…We work with Idriss and let him know that he needs to prevent these things."

FSA supporters maintain that it can be hard for Americans to distinguish between radical and moderate rebels—and contend the current vetting process should be trusted. There's "quite a bit of nuance in these forces," says Yaser Tabbara, executive director of the Syrian American Council, a group advocating on behalf of the Syrian opposition. "Some of these forces have a religious undertone, they are practicing Muslims, but that does not necessarily make them extremists or against a civil Democratic order."

Update: This post previously stated that the Syrian Support Group gets supplies to the border. Layman clarifies that the group makes sure it gets to the main SMC warehouses.
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