A few days ago we published lobbyist and horse slaughter advocate Jim Jatras’s story about how the U.S. and Saudi Arabia helped create ISIS. (And speaking of horse slaughter, read my story, “Voting ‘Neigh’ on the Horsemeat Ban.”)
Washington Babylon reader Jonathan Marshall wrote to say that the story was really talking about Al Qaeda, not ISIS, to which Jatras replied — leading to this story — that Al Qaeda had morphed into ISIS and so he was correct after all. Marshall raised other issues but based on all available evidence I exonerated Jatras of colluding with Al Qaeda, ISIS and Saudi Arabia.
Now Marshall has come by with more criticism, so I publish below his new allegations and Jatras’s reply. After review, I again have absolved Jatras of any wrongdoing.
So without further ado, here is the new exchange. Oh, and reader Aaron Good is between them:
I don’t think your investigation really addressed the issues. Here’s a summary of what the former Prime Minister of Qatar said on television about aid to the al-Qaeda-allied Nusra Front, courtesy of Middle East Eye, a leading publication on the region:
“‘Maybe Nusra there was a relationship? Maybe there was. I swear myself, I don’t know about this issue,” he told the interviewer. “But even if this were the case, when the decision came that Nusra was not acceptable, the support to Nusra came to an end and the focus was on liberating Syria.”
He specifically ruled out Qatari support for the Islamic State (IS) group, however, and said that any resources sent to rebel factions in Syria had US approval.
Zero Hedge summarized this, as quoted in your story, as “public admission to collusion and coordination between four countries to destabilize an independent state, [including] possible support for Nusra/al-Qaeda.”
Several points: It is no “blockbuster” revelation to get confirmation of what has long been public — that the U.S. and several other countries collaborated to undermine the Assad regime.
Second, there have been many accounts in the mainstream media of US weapons ending up in the hands of Nusra, and of U.S. allies supporting Islamists directly. Here’s a 2012 New York Times story on the latter.
Finally, I still think it’s misleading to plaster a headline about the U.S. and Saudi Arabia creating ISIS on a story whose only news is the Qatari interview re possible support of Nusra, a rival group with fundamental differences in ideology and strategy. ISIS was an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, not an offshoot of Nusra.
Certainly the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria radicalized Islamists in the region and created the conditions for the rise of ISIS, but that point has been made many times before (including many of my own articles).
Last but not least, do you share the author’s endorsement of Trump’s claim that “Barack Obama’s precipitous withdrawal of American forces from Iraq” fostered the creation of ISIS? Even putting aside the fact that Obama had little choice but to withdraw, I believe history shows that the unwelcome presence of U.S. troops in foreign countries is a prime igniter of anti-U.S. radicalism and terrorism.
[Editor’s note: I do more or less agree with Trump, as seen in this New Republic story.]
Marshall is pretty clearly correct in my estimation. It is a sign of our absurd times that one has to split hairs over al Qaeda/ISIS and the fact that the US (& friends) have been supporting them is damning enough… but split hairs we must. I would also just add that we cannot rule out some kind of covert assistance to ISIS; it just hasn’t been demonstrably linked to the US in any indisputable way. Their emergence in a country we have been dead set on overthrowing is so serendipitous.
It’s perfectly reasonable to expect the former Qatari prime minister to engage in a little CYA about his personal responsibility. “Maybe Nusra there was a relationship? Maybe there was. I swear myself, I don’t know about the issue.”
No, but he confirmed they were sending arms to jihadists in Syria in cahoots with the Saudis and the US. That’s significant. When has any US officials admitted to arming anyone other than “opposition” forces? Who has come out and said, “We gave weapons to Salafist, jihadist terrorists of the al-Qaeda/ISIS variety”?
It is absurd to play games about which groups are specifically al-Qaeda, and which ones not. Why? Because al-Qaeda isn’t and never was a single, centrally administered and managed organization.
It was a core formed in Afghanistan and Pakistan during our earlier experience with arming Saudi-inspired terrorists (but only against Commies, so it was OK) but then the show went on the road in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (after we were kind enough to remove the secular dictatorship in favor of Shiite majority, creating an opening in Sunni areas), Libya, and now Syria.
The various groups are constantly forming, splitting, changing their names, and fighting with each other. One week al-Nusra is the “official” al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the week after they’ve changed their name to Jabhat Fateh al Sham and has “broken” (sure!) with al-Qaeda. (Just as al-Nusra itself was originally spun off in 2011 by al-Baghdadi’s “Islamic State of Iraq,” a/k/a al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) before AQI became changed its name to Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS, Daesh) in 2013.
Re: “ISIS was an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, not an offshoot of Nusra.” Actually, Nusra is an offshoot of AQI that became ISIS, for whatever difference that makes. So maybe Nusra are the nice ISIS that General David Petraeus said in Senate testimony in September 2015 we should arm against ISIS (presumably the bad ones)?
Detachments under various commanders are constantly shifting their loyalties and changing their names more frequently and confusingly than the Former Artist Formerly But Then Again Later Known as Prince, spinning off other groups like Nour al-Din al-Zenki (the one that sawed off a kid’s head), Jaysh al-Islam, Tahrir al-Sham, Jaysh al-Ummah, Ahrar al-Sham, you name it.
It’s also why groups in Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria (Boko Haram), Somalia (al-Shebaab), Libya, Philippines (Abu Sayyaf), the Russian Caucasus, etc., etc. can “be” al-Qaeda when it suits them, or “be” ISIS when they prefer that, or “be” either, just by issuing a statement.
The bottom line, the whole kaleidoscopic alphabet soup of groups under the black flag of jihad share the same Salafist ideology and the desire to replace a secular, national Syrian state with a sectarian Sharia-ruled state on the Saudi Wahhabist model.
Trying to sort out that our aid “only” went to this one, not that one, is a dodge. Ditto for the excuse that maybe some weapons “ended up” – Oops! How’d that happen! – with the “wrong” group. As though the boys at Langley and their pals as Foggy Bottom and at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – and in Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara — didn’t know damn well what they were doing!
That is the import of the 2012 DIA memorandum, the authenticity of which no one questions and about which the MSM maintains total silence. As so does the USG, even under Trump, when it would be in their partisan interest to expose the perfidy of their predecessors. But Deep State interests come first. So much for elections.
I do not endorse Trump’s lame claim that “precipitous” withdrawal from Iraq was to blame. I thought I made that clear: “In short, for whatever reason, even at that early date – August 2016 – Trump’s operation was already in the hands of people who were committed to the Deep State’s perspectives.
No, arming jihadists in Syria wasn’t the problem. Nor was overthrowing Kaddafi and sloshing the region with Libyan weapons. Nor was ousting Saddam Hussein and opening up Iraq to both Iran and al-Qaeda. The only admissible mistake was pulling out from someplace we had “deployed American forces.” Maybe the mockery was too subtle for some readers.
At most (and I wouldn’t advance this myself though I alluded to in my email to campaign since they had already pointed Trump down that road) one could say, is that withdrawal might have had some proximate impact.
Though that shouldn’t be seen in isolation: “But also essential was the reckless decision of the Obama White House and Clinton State Department to pursue in Syria the same ‘regime change’ policy that had led to disaster in Libya. This meant pumping money and weapons into the Syrian war in support of al-Qaeda-led jihadists.”