Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hersh on the Squalor that is Obama's Antinomial Syria Policy

Every six months to a year Seymour Hersh publishes a story in The London Review of Books that confirms for those of us who try to stay abreast of the daily news what we already know.

In his latest story, "Military to Military," Hersh relies on his longtime anonymous source within the Pentagon to inform us that following an exhaustive Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analysis completed in the summer of 2013 (prior to the false-flag Ghouta sarin attack), which concluded that regime change in Syria would lead to another Libya, a failed state rife with rival Salafi jihadists committing a series of escalating atrocities, the Joint Chiefs under General Martin Dempsey decided to undercut the Obama administration's covert regime-change program. Dempsey accomplished this by feeding intelligence to Russia, Israel and Germany, knowing full well that it would be passed along to Syria.

Why this is being considered a "bombshell" I don't know. It is reported in the mainstream press if not daily at least on a regular basis, and has been for years, that the Obama administration is pursuing a contradictory policy in relation to Syria. On the one hand Obama says "Assad must go"; while on the other hand, he makes sure not to grease the skids to Assad's exit. For instance, the U.S. does not supply antiaircraft weapons to the mythical "moderates" who are battling the Baathists, nor does it enforce a no-fly/no-go zone the type of which the U.S. implemented in Saddam Hussein's Iraq (what Hillary has in Strangelovian fashion been calling for from her lectern in the Democratic debates despite the presence of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system). The one obvious fact for a news consumer about the U.S. policy towards Syria is that it is a contradiction.

Hersh gives us a plain-spoken insider's perspective how this contradiction has played out in the corridors of power over the last several years. In his opening paragraph, Hersh situates the U.S. contradiction on Syria within Obama's reboot of the Cold War with Russia and China, something which I believe will mark Obama in the annals as one of the worst leaders in U.S. history.
Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.
Hersh is merciless when it comes to Obama's favorite fiction, that of a decent non-jihadist opposition that is bravely fighting the bloodthirsty Syrian state; it doesn't exist, something that the DIA figured out and which, according to Hersh, motivated the Pentagon to undercut the CIA's funneling of weapons from Libya into Syria via Turkey. Once across the border, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) would promptly unload their Western-&-GCC supplied arms to the jihadists. This has all been reported before, as has been Turkey's active and nefarious role, but it is always helpful to read it again, and in such clean, clear prose.

One of the aspects of the disinformation campaign in the mainstream press that I have been interested in is the shifting explanations of how ISIS funds itself. The whopper told right from the get-go during the dark days of the collapse of the Iraqi Army and the capture of Mosul was that ISIS funded itself by stealing the hard currency in banks in territory under its control. Never mind the absurdity of claiming the outcome of an event, the capture of Mosul, as the source of its funding. There you have it. It was regularly repeated in the mainstream press when ISIS went on its blitzkrieg in June 2014.

The next ISIS funding source du jour became black market oil. No doubt there was some truth to this, but the revenue numbers thrown around seemed ludicrously inflated to me. It made no sense that with oil prices depressed globally the caliphate jihadists could be raking in $100 a barrel.

Then suddenly, after the Friday the 13th Paris massacre, when it became inconvenient to acknowledge any connection between the West, its allies and the Islamic State, the black market oil trade had to be erased as the explanation of how the caliphate generated funds to pay the wages for its tens of thousands of fighters and to provide all the weapons and munitions in their possession. The next funding source presented by the press was extortion and ad hoc taxation. The ISIS jihadists are shakedown artists raising money by fining women for an inappropriate hijab or bakers for baking bread.

All these excuses are thrown out there to obscure the obvious: The jihadists get their principal funding from the Gulf sheikhdoms. Saudi Arabia funds the Syrian opposition. And we know that there are precious few "moderates" who remain among the opposition. So the obvious inference is that the Gulf sheikhs must fund ISIS as well. As Hersh notes,
In the early stages of the talks, the adviser said, the Joint Chiefs tried to establish what Assad needed as a sign of their good intentions. The answer was sent through one of Assad’s friends: ‘Bring him the head of Prince Bandar.’ The Joint Chiefs did not oblige. Bandar bin Sultan had served Saudi Arabia for decades in intelligence and national security affairs, and spent more than twenty years as ambassador in Washington. In recent years, he has been known as an advocate for Assad’s removal from office by any means. Reportedly in poor health, he resigned last year as director of the Saudi National Security Council, but Saudi Arabia continues to be a major provider of funds to the Syrian opposition, estimated by US intelligence last year at $700 million.
More proof along these lines is Monday's lengthy story, "Behind the Black Flag: The Recruitment of an ISIS Killer," about front-line jihadist commander Hassan Aboud. Aboud started his own local brigade after the Arab Spring uprising, the Dawood Brigade, but in 2013 he was offered $2 million by ISIS to join them:
People who know Mr. Aboud describe a series of meetings with Islamic State leaders from Iraq, including with Abu Ali al-Anbari, a former Iraqi military officer who moved outside the city of Aleppo with a security contingent and a mission to recruit local commanders. 
Abu Ameen described a “secret operational phase” by ISIS in 2013 that targeted rebel and activist networks. Its timing aligned with Mr. Aboud’s disputes, he said, “and Dawood Brigade is one of the groups that was infiltrated.” 
At one point, activists said, Abu Ali called a meeting of rebel leaders in Idlib Province to discuss relationships with ISIS. He also sent ISIS agents to Sarmin to woo Mr. Aboud, who had begun to noticeably fall under the Islamic State’s sway. 
Mr. Dugheim said he mediated between Abu Issa and Mr. Aboud at the time. ISIS, he said, was flattering the brigade with attention and gifts. 
“ISIS offered Hassan Aboud a big amount of money — $2 million — when Hassan Aboud actually had nothing in hand,” Mr. Dugheim said. “They gave him weapons and money and food.” 
This sum could not be independently confirmed.
What jumped out at me was not only the amount, $2 million for a mid-level commander, but the year, 2013. ISIS didn't claim control of Fallujah until the beginning of 2014. That much money tossed around for someone like Aboud reeks of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In the end, Hersh provides a lucid picture of the squalor of the Obama administration's Syria policy, which he summarizes as follows:
The four core elements of Obama’s Syria policy remain intact today: an insistence that Assad must go; that no anti-IS coalition with Russia is possible; that Turkey is a steadfast ally in the war against terrorism; and that there really are significant moderate opposition forces for the US to support.
One silver lining  is the Nobel Peace Prize winning POTUS will hasten the collapse of the radical neoliberal center. European leaders are already moving to embrace Hungary's Orbanism, as the radical left finds an electoral footing. We are seeing the sunset of the EU as NATO lackey and lickspittle to U.S. hegemony. Only good can come of this.


I'm out of town for the holiday. The next post should be this weekend.

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