Thursday, October 1, 2015

Russia Bombs Al Qaeda, U.S. Cries Foul

Anne Barnard, New York Times Beirut bureau chief, has been covering the war in Syria from the beginning. She has been the workhorse for U.S. propaganda from the outset. The chief tenet of such propaganda is "It is all Assad's fault," dutifully repeated in this morning's post, written with co-propagandist and Russophobe Andrew Kramer, "Russia Carries Out Airstrikes in Syria for 2nd Day":
The Syrian uprising began in 2011 with peaceful protests, and turned violent in response to repression by the government. But relatively secular groups led by army defectors have been eclipsed by better-financed, better-organized Islamist groups.
At this in this formulation, which is an improvement, there is the acknowledgment that "better-financed, better-organized Islamist groups" quickly subverted the Arab Spring uprising. Unfortunately, as always, there is no explanation of who is doing the financing and organizing of the jihadis. When it is explained it is absurdly chalked up to some sort of spontaneous social media uprising, and possibly an opaque reference or two to wealthy funders in the Gulf emirates.

Today's story by Barnard and Kramer is illuminating because it shows the strain Russia's active bombing campaign is putting on the main cover story, that the United States and its allies among the oil-rich Gulf monarchies are aiding a "moderate" opposition while targeting the Satanic ISIS. Based on the squeals and threats coming from Saudi and U.S. officials, it is clear their ally is Al Qaeda:
The strikes on Thursday targeted the Army of Conquest, a coalition of insurgent groups that includes the Nusra Front, the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, and a range of less extreme Islamist groups — all of which are opposed to the Islamic State. 
Often fighting alongside the Army of Conquest are relatively secular groups from what is left of the loose-knit Free Syrian Army, including some that have received United States training and advanced American-made antitank missiles. At least one C.I.A.-trained group was among the targets hit on Wednesday, which drew an angry response from Washington.
This year, the Army of Conquest dealt Syrian forces a serious setback by seizing the city of Idlib, and later, the entire province, advances that posed the war’s sharpest threat to the coastal areas where support for Mr. Assad is strongest. Russia has a naval station on the coast and has concentrated much of its recent military buildup there. 
For critics of the Russian action, the imprecision in Moscow in the accounts of the targeting decisions in the first day of the Russian air assaults seemed intentional, bearing out fears in Western governments that the Kremlin, as it enters the Syrian conflict, would follow on the heels of Mr. Assad’s government in conflating antigovernment fighters with terrorists.
The choice of targets underscored a fundamental dispute between the United States and its allies, like Saudi Arabia, on one side; and Mr. Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran, on the other. 
Mr. Assad, and now Russia, make little distinction among Islamist insurgent groups, and their supporters suggest that any such distinctions are meaningless hairsplitting. United States policy appears to reflect an acknowledgment that the Nusra Front and its allies — while many of them are unpalatable — often clash with the Islamic State and have differing goals and tactics.
With Russia inserting itself into the theater of war, we're back to Afghanistan in the 1980s. The U.S. worked with Islamists prior to that Russian intervention and then it worked with Al Qaeda afterwards. We know how that ended. (And though there is happy talk about the Afghan government fighting to take back Kunduz City this morning, it is clear that the Taliban have the upper hand in the north.)

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