ISIS Information

 

There are extraordinary elements in the present US  policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the US  is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil.

 

The US  would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.

But US , Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition.

There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the US , Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis.  It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.

The reality of US  policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria.

 Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that

foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well. This has now happened.

By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries,

the US  has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government. In fact, it has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish.

Using the al-Qa'ida Label

The sharp increase in the strength and reach of jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq has generally been unacknowledged until recently by politicians and media in the West. A primary reason for this is that Western governments and their security forces narrowly define the jihadist threat as those forces directly controlled by al-Qa‘ida central or “core” al-Qa‘ida. This enables them to present a much more cheerful picture of their successes in the so-called war on terror than the situation on the ground warrants.

In fact, the idea that the only jihadis to be worried about are those with the official blessing of al-Qa‘ida is naïve and self-deceiving. It ignores the fact, for instance, that ISIS has been criticized by the al-Qa‘ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for its excessive violence and sectarianism. After talking to a range of Syrian jihadi rebels not directly affiliated with al-Qa‘ida in southeast Turkey earlier this year, a source told me that “without exception they all expressed enthusiasm for the 9/11 attacks and hoped the same thing would happen in Europe as well as the US.”

Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qa‘ida have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of US  policy aims. In Syria, the Americans backed a plan by Saudi Arabia to build up a “Southern Front” based in Jordan that would be hostile to the Assad government in Damascus, and simultaneously hostile to al-Qa‘ida-type rebels in the north and east.

The powerful but supposedly moderate Yarmouk Brigade, reportedly the planned recipient of anti-aircraft missiles from Saudi Arabia, was intended to be the leading element in this new formation. But numerous videos show that the Yarmouk Brigade has frequently fought in collaboration with JAN, the official al-Qa‘ida affiliate.

Since it was likely that, in the midst of battle, these two groups would share their munitions, Washington was effectively allowing advanced weaponry to be handed over to its deadliest enemy.

Iraqi officials confirm that they have captured sophisticated arms from ISIS fighters in Iraq that were originally supplied by outside powers to forces considered to be anti-al-Qa‘ida in Syria.

The name al-Qa‘ida has always been applied flexibly when identifying an enemy. In 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, as armed Iraqi opposition to the American and British-led occupation mounted, US  officials attributed most attacks to al-Qa‘ida, though many were carried out by nationalist and Baathist groups.

Propaganda like this helped to persuade nearly 60% of US  voters prior to the Iraq invasion that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and those responsible for 9/11, despite the absence of any evidence for this. In Iraq itself, indeed throughout the entire Muslim world, these accusations have benefited al-Qa‘ida by exaggerating its role in the resistance to the US  and British occupation.

Precisely the opposite PR tactics were employed by Western governments in 2011 in Libya, where any similarity between al-Qa‘ida and the NATO-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was played down. Only those jihadis who had a direct operational link to the al-Qa‘ida “core” of Osama bin Laden were deemed to be dangerous. The falsity of the pretense that the anti-Gaddafi jihadis in Libya were less threatening than those in direct contact with al-Qa‘ida was forcefully, if tragically, exposed when US  ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by jihadi fighters in Benghazi in September 2012. These were the same fighters lauded by Western governments and media for their role in the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

Imagining al-Qa'ida as the Mafia

Al-Qa‘ida is an idea rather than an organization, and this has long been the case. For a five-year period after 1996, it did have cadres, resources, and camps in Afghanistan, but these were eliminated after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Subsequently, al-Qa‘ida’s name became primarily a rallying cry, a set of Islamic beliefs, centering on the creation of an Islamic state, the imposition of sharia, a return to Islamic customs, the subjugation of women, and the waging of holy war against other Muslims, notably the Shia, who are considered heretics worthy of death. At the center of this doctrine for making war is an emphasis on self-sacrifice and martyrdom as a symbol of religious faith and commitment. This has resulted in using untrained but fanatical believers as suicide bombers, to devastating effect.

It has always been in the interest of the US  and other governments that al-Qa‘ida be viewed as having a command-and-control structure like a mini-Pentagon, or like the mafia in America. This is a comforting image for the public because organized groups, however demonic, can be tracked down and eliminated through imprisonment or death. More alarming is the reality of a movement whose adherents are self-recruited and can spring up anywhere.

Osama bin Laden’s gathering of militants, which he did not call al-Qa‘ida until after 9/11, was just one of many jihadi groups 12 years ago. But today its ideas and methods are predominant among jihadis because of the prestige and publicity it gained through the destruction of the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, and its demonization by Washington as the source of all anti-American evil. These days, there is a narrowing of differences in the beliefs of jihadis, regardless of whether or not they are formally linked to al-Qa‘ida central.

Unsurprisingly, governments prefer the fantasy picture of al-Qa‘ida because it enables them to claim victories when it succeeds in killing its better known members and allies. Often, those eliminated are given quasi-military ranks, such as “head of operations,” to enhance the significance of their demise. The culmination of this heavily publicized but largely irrelevant aspect of the “war on terror” was the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan in 2011. This enabled President Obama to grandstand before the American public as the man who had presided over the hunting down of al-Qa‘ida’s leader. In practical terms, however, his death had little impact on al-Qa‘ida-type jihadi groups, whose greatest expansion has occurred subsequently.

Ignoring the Roles of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

The key decisions that enabled al-Qa‘ida to survive, and later to expand, were made in the hours immediately after 9/11. Almost every significant element in the project to crash planes into the Twin Towers and other iconic American buildings led back to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was a member of the Saudi elite, and his father had been a close associate of the Saudi monarch. Citing a CIA report from 2002, the official 9/11 report says that al-Qa‘ida relied for its financing on “a variety of donors and fundraisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.”

The report’s investigators repeatedly found their access limited or denied when seeking information in Saudi Arabia. Yet President George W. Bush apparently never even considered holding the Saudis responsible for what happened. An exit of senior Saudis, including bin Laden relatives, from the US  was facilitated by the US  government in the days after 9/11. Most significant, 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report about the relationship between the attackers and Saudi Arabia were cut and never published, despite a promise by President Obama to do so, on the grounds of national security.

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In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the US  secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. But despite this private admission, the US  and Western Europeans continued to remain indifferent to Saudi preachers whose message, spread to millions by satellite TV, YouTube, and Twitter, called for the killing of the Shia as heretics. These calls came as al-Qa‘ida bombs were slaughtering people in Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. A sub-headline in another State Department cable in the same year reads: “Saudi Arabia: Anti-Shi’ism as Foreign Policy?” Now, five years later, Saudi-supported groups have a record of extreme sectarianism against non-Sunni Muslims.

Pakistan, or rather Pakistani military intelligence in the shape of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was the other parent of al-Qa‘ida, the Taliban, and jihadi movements in general. When the Taliban was disintegrating under the weight of US  bombing in 2001, its forces in northern Afghanistan were trapped by anti-Taliban forces. Before they surrendered, hundreds of ISI members, military trainers, and advisers were hastily evacuated by air. Despite the clearest evidence of ISI’s sponsorship of the Taliban and jihadis in general, Washington refused to confront Pakistan, and thereby opened the way for the resurgence of the Taliban after 2003, which neither the US  nor NATO has been able to reverse.

The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The US  did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.

The spectacular resurgence of al-Qa‘ida and its offshoots has happened despite the huge expansion of American and British intelligence services and their budgets after 9/11. Since then, the US , closely followed by Britain, has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and adopted procedures normally associated with police states, such as imprisonment without trial, rendition, torture, and domestic espionage. Governments wage the “war on terror” claiming that the rights of individual citizens must be sacrificed to secure the safety of all.

In the face of these controversial security measures, the movements against which they are aimed have not been defeated but rather have grown stronger. At the time of 9/11, al-Qa‘ida was a small, generally ineffectual organization; by 2014 al-Qa‘ida-type groups were numerous and powerful.

In other words, the “war on terror,” the waging of which has shaped the political landscape for so much of the world since 2001, has demonstrably failed. Until the fall of Mosul, nobody paid much attention.

-------------------------------

The statement from IS is a game changer because it shows the terrorist organisation turning its focus outwards, says Professor Greg Barton from Monash University's Global Terrorism Research Centre.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Islamic State terrorist group has issued a direct threat to Australia in a dramatic escalation of its rhetorical war against the West.

In a statement uploaded on the internet, the group's official spokesman has called on Islamic State fighters to kill Australians and others among the so-called "disbelievers" supporting US-led military efforts in Syria and Iraq.

The IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani says the fatwah applies to both military personnel and civilians because they've all entered into a coalition against Islamic State.

Here's a short excerpt from that speech, obtained first today by 7.30.

ABU MUHAMMAD AL-ADNANI, ISLAMIC STATE SPOKESMAN (male voiceover): "You must strike the soldiers, patrons of the tyrants, their troops, police, security and investigators, as well as their collaborators. Disrupt their sleep. Embitter their lives and turn them on themselves. If you can kill an American or European infidel - especially the spiteful and cursed French - or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the infidel fighters, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon God, and kill them in any way possible. Do not consult with anyone and do not seek anyone's advice. Whether they are civilian or military, the same ruling applies. Both of them are disbelievers. Both of them are fighters, so it is permitted to shed their blood and take their money."

LEIGH SALES: Joining me now is Professor Greg Barton from the Global Terrorism Research Centre in Melbourne.

Professor Barton, what's your take on the IS statement that's been issued?

GREG BARTON, Global Terrorism Research Centre: Leigh, I've just read through the entire 11 pages and I was chilled because, surprisingly, it's beautiful. It's lyrical like an Old Testament prophet. And I'm very, very worried about the persuasive power it's going to have on young people, including young Australians. I think this is quite a game-changer. It means that IS is now turning its energy outwards and is going to usurp the role of al-Qaeda and I think we're seeing a lot of challenges coming from this.

LEIGH SALES: That's interesting that you say they're turning their energy outwards because until now, experts and indeed people within the Obama administration in the US, have said that it is focused locally geographically on territorial conquests in the Middle East.

GREG BARTON: Yeah, that's certainly been the case up to now, but there has been a debate whether it will always be that way or whether in rivalry with al-Qaeda it wants to establish a base - and of course al-Qaeda means the base - establish a base in its Islamic State so-called and then direct its foreign fighters back home. And it seems, sadly, that the latter is now coming true and that makes it a much more formidable source of threat than if it was simply doing terrible things in Iraq and Syria.

LEIGH SALES: How does this statement differ to previous statements that IS has put out?

GREG BARTON: Well last time Adnani spoke was on June 29 when he said that they're changing their name to become Islamic State and declared that al-Baghdadi was now Sheik - Caliph Ibrahim, that this was now a caliphate. The same sort of invocation of - you would say Old Testament language, of rich, lyrical religious language justifying what they're doing and setting a pep talk rallying cry to the fighters and saying, "You're doing wonderful things. God is with you. Keep on." Adnani speaks sparingly. It's only every couple of months we hear from him. It was three months ago we last heard from him, but his messages are devastatingly effective.

LEIGH SALES: What do you think is the relationship between this statement and the alleged plot last week, the phone call and the threats that occurred that prompted the terrorist raids?

GREG BARTON: Unfortunately, there seems a very direct relationship, there are passages in Adnani's speech that speak directly of, "If you don't have a bullet, if you don't have explosives, use your car, use a knife, run them over, slit their threats," very much like the Woolwich killing, which of course was inspired by al-Qaeda's call to strike where you are. Now IS is going in the same way. Last week it looked like Al Baryalei might've been out of turn, speaking as kind of a renegade Australian. It now seems that he was exactly on message and foreshadowing what Islamic State was going to do and that's really chilling.

LEIGH SALES: Are there any assumptions that can be made in that case about his level of seniority within that group?

GREG BARTON: He appears to be sort of mid-rank. The fact that he's got at least 30 young Australians to join him is - for a guy who seems in many ways quite unremarkable is a remarkable achievement. And he's certainly not senior, but he's rising through the ranks, as indeed a number of foreign fighters. We think of Omar Shishani, the Chechen who is in charge of Raqqa City, and it may well be that Baryalei is sort of rising up to sort of match that sort of status in time.

LEIGH SALES: The Abbott Government has repeatedly said that Australia is not facing any greater risk because of Australia's involvement joining this US-led campaign against Islamic State. Is that correct, in your view?

GREG BARTON: Look, I think, Leigh, whatever we do has a risk. If we do nothing, it has a risk, so not joining has its own risk. I think we would still be a target. I think the Prime Minister's correct in that. I think joining a military coalition feeds into the hands of the Islamic State propagandists, gives them lots of material, but they'd find some other way to try and find the moral high ground and justify attacks against us regardless. So I'm not sure that it greatly elevates our risk, but it certainly adds to it, there's no question. But then, doing nothing would be a very risky move as well, in my opinion.

LEIGH SALES: In an interview last night, the former Prime Minister John Howard said that the rise of Islamic State was not attributable to the 2003 invasion of Iraq in which Australia was involved. The reason that he gave to partly justify that is because the IS operation emanates largely from Syria. Is that accurate?

GREG BARTON: No, sadly, it may be sincere, but it's very mistaken. Islamic State arises directly out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was formed in 2004, but had precursor elements under Musa'b al-Zarqawi going back to the time of the invasion. Unfortunately with the invasion, the way it was done, we created perfect storm conditions for an insurgency, or multiple insurgencies. The insurgency that quickly came to dominate was the al-Qaeda insurgency and we've been living with it ever since. We put it back in the 2007 surge, but with the troop drawdown at the end of 2011 and with the emergence of the civil war in Syria, it found a way to re-energise. And Baghdadi's been a brilliant leader. He broke hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters out of jails out of Baghdad mid-last year and has built up a formidable force and has great strategy; he knows what he's doing. But this goes right back to Musa'b al-Zarqawi's work in the wake of the invasion. So, sadly, we bear some culpability for mistakes - however well-intended, we made mistakes, and it's given rise to this.

LEIGH SALES: Professor Barton, thank you for your time tonight.

GREG BARTON: Thank you, Leigh.

 

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Islamic State terrorist group has issued a direct threat to Australia in a dramatic escalation of its rhetorical war against the West.

In a statement uploaded on the internet, the group's official spokesman has called on Islamic State fighters to kill Australians and others among the so-called "disbelievers" supporting US-led military efforts in Syria and Iraq. The IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani says the fatwah applies to both military personnel and civilians because they've all entered into a coalition against Islamic State.

Here's a short excerpt from that speech, obtained first today by 7.30.

A speech  believed given by ISIS spokesman in September 2014

ABU MUHAMMAD AL-ADNANI, ISLAMIC STATE SPOKESMAN (male voiceover): "You must strike the soldiers, patrons of the tyrants, their troops, police, security and investigators, as well as their collaborators. Disrupt their sleep. Embitter their lives and turn them on themselves. If you can kill an American or European infidel - especially the spiteful and cursed French - or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the infidel fighters, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon God, and kill them in any way possible. Do not consult with anyone and do not seek anyone's advice. Whether they are civilian or military, the same ruling applies. Both of them are disbelievers. Both of them are fighters, so it is permitted to shed their blood and take their money."

 IS is now turning its energy outwards and is going to usurp the role of al-Qaeda .

LEIGH SALES: That's interesting that you say they're turning their energy outwards because until now, experts and indeed people within the Obama administration in the US, have said that it is focused locally geographically on territorial conquests in the Middle East.

GREG BARTON: Yeah, that's certainly been the case up to now, but there has been a debate whether it will always be that way or whether in rivalry with al-Qaeda it wants to establish a base - and of course al-Qaeda means the base - establish a base in its Islamic State so-called and then

direct its foreign fighters back home.
LEIGH SALES: How does this statement differ to previous statements that IS has put out?

 last time Adnani spoke was on June 29 when he said that they're changing their name to become Islamic State and declared that al-Baghdadi was now Sheik - Caliph Ibrahim, that this was now a caliphate.

The same sort of invocation of - you would say Old Testament language, of rich, lyrical religious language justifying what they're doing and setting a pep talk rallying cry to the fighters and saying, "You're doing wonderful things. God is with you. Keep on." Adnani speaks sparingly. It's only every couple of months we hear from him. It was three months ago we last heard from him, but his messages are devastatingly effective.


GREG BARTON: Unfortunately, there seems a very direct relationship, there are passages in Adnani's speech that speak directly of, "If you don't have a bullet, if you don't have explosives, use your car, use a knife, run them over, slit their threats," very much like the Woolwich killing, which of course was inspired by al-Qaeda's call to strike where you are.

Now IS is going in the same way. Last week it looked like Al Baryalei might've been out of turn, speaking as kind of a renegade Australian.

It now seems that he was exactly on message and foreshadowing what Islamic State was going to do and that's really chilling.


GREG BARTON: He appears to be sort of mid-rank. The fact that he's got at least 30 young Australians to join him is - for a guy who seems in many ways quite unremarkable is a remarkable achievement. And he's certainly not senior, but he's rising through the ranks, as indeed a number of foreign fighters. We think of Omar Shishani, the Chechen who is in charge of Raqqa City, and it may well be that Baryalei is sort of rising up to sort of match that sort of status in time.

LEIGH SALES: In an interview last night, the former Prime Minister John Howard said that the rise of Islamic State was not attributable to the 2003 invasion of Iraq in which Australia was involved. The reason that he gave to partly justify that is because the IS operation emanates largely from Syria. Is that accurate?

 Islamic State arises directly out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was formed in 2004, but had precursor elements under Musa'b al-Zarqawi going back to the time of the invasion.

Unfortunately with the invasion, the way it was done, we created perfect storm conditions for an insurgency, or multiple insurgencies. The insurgency that quickly came to dominate was the al-Qaeda insurgency and we've been living with it ever since. We put it back in the 2007 surge, but with the troop drawdown at the end of 2011 and with the emergence of the civil war in Syria, it found a way to re-energise.

And Baghdadi's been a brilliant leader. He broke hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters out of jails out of Baghdad mid-last year and has built up a formidable force and has great strategy; he knows what he's doing. But this goes right back to Musa'b al-Zarqawi's work in the wake of the invasion. So, sadly, we bear some culpability for mistakes - however well-intended, we made mistakes, and it's given rise to this.

LEIGH SALES: Professor Barton, thank you for your time tonight.

GREG BARTON: Thank you, Leigh.

 

 

 

Islamic State arises directly out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was formed in 2004, but had precursor elements under Musa'b al-Zarqawi going back to the time of the invasion.

 Unfortunately with the invasion, the way it was done, we created perfect storm conditions for an insurgency, or multiple insurgencies. The insurgency that quickly came to dominate was the al-Qaeda insurgency and we've been living with it ever since.

We put it back in the 2007 surge, but with the troop drawdown at the end of 2011 and with the emergence of the civil war in Syria, it found a way to re-energise. And Baghdadi's been a brilliant leader. He broke hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters out of jails out of Baghdad mid-last year and has built up a formidable force and has great strategy; he knows what he's doing.

 But this goes right back to Musa'b al-Zarqawi's work in the wake of the invasion. So, sadly, we bear some culpability for mistakes - however well-intended, we made mistakes, and it's given rise to this.

 

 

U.S. Alliance with FSA and ISIL in Six Photographs

The following six photographs confirm that a favorite “moderate rebel” leader, Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, is allied with ISIL.

The first photograph is from Spring 2013 and shows Okaidi with the American who has been the principal coordinator of US policy on Syria. The last two photographs are from a meeting days ago when Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (Rep Illinois) and George Holding (Rep. North Carolina) met with Okaidi and other “moderate rebels” in Turkey.

Other photos show Okaidi with ISIL fighters and being interviewed about his relationship with ISIL. The photographs are from videos identified at bottom.

 

Ford&OkaidiPhoto 1 / May 2013/ Okaidi with Robert S. Ford, US Ambassador and Coordinator of the “Friends of Syria”

 Okaidi&ISIL2Photo 2 / August 2013 / Okaidi with ISIL fighters at Menagh Air Base, Syria.  ISIL leader is Abu Jandal to Okaidi’s left.

 IslamicStateHereToStayPhoto 3. / August 2013 / ISIL Leader Abu Jandal at Menagh Air Base, Syria.

Okaidi_GoodRelsISILPhoto 4 / November 2013 / Interview with Okaidi “My relationship with the brothers of ISIL is good.”

Okaidi_09242014_TurkeyPhoto 5 / Sept 24, 2014/ Okaidi at meeting with US Congress members

 Kinzinger_in_TurkeyPhoto 6 / Sept 24 2014 / Congressman Kinzinger after meeting Okaidi and other “moderate rebels” who the US is arming, supplying and paying salaries.

 

By funding “moderate rebels” like FSA Colonel Okaidi, the US is in effective alliance with ISIL.

Under international law it is illegal to encourage, support and aid military and paramilitary activities against another State.
See the full videos here:

1) FSA leader Okaidi with US Ambassador Ford and ISIL leader plus interview with Okaidi:

2) Okaidi and Representative Kinzinger in Turkey:

Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, CNN, “Syrian Rebel Groups Unite to Fight ISIS“, September 29, 2014

Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com. Read other articles by Rick.