AMUDA, Syria — At long last, those of us struggling to maintain a fledgling democracy in Northern Syria have been buoyed by the announcement from the Trump administration that the American military will begin to directly arm the Kurdish men and women who make up the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Those forces have been America’s most valued and effective allies in the war against the Islamic State.
This is something we’ve asked for repeatedly during the nearly three years our militias have been fighting the Islamic State and winning, victories achieved despite tough odds and a lack of heavy weapons. We’ve steadily driven the jihadists back hundreds of miles to the brink of defeat at Raqqa. The Islamic State won’t give up its self-styled capital easily. This military aid will be crucial in finishing the job.
But as President Trump prepares to meet next week with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — no friend to the Kurds in Syria or in his own country — we ask the American president and people to be mindful of the enormous sacrifice the Kurdish people have made in this fight, and the importance of the unique democratic system we have worked hard to build in the area of Northern Syria known as Rojava.
BackChannels has repeated made the case and point that ISIL had been incubated — protected early on from annihilation — by Assad’s preferring to fight the west (and democratic liberalism in the distribution of power) first at the outset of the Syrian Tragedy, and that decision had been flanked by Moscow and Tehran.
By electing to make the primary enemy “The West” and only halting the advance of al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda-type organizations at critical points, Bashar al-Assad created conditions in which the true terrorist opposition could gather and grow. While Syrian forces were creating the horrific conditions that would spur the influx of jihadists into Syria while also inducing mass displacement and migration, it turns out that Saddam Hussein’s old Baathist officer corps had in mind some similar ideas regarding their own lives as puppeteers.
Haji Bakr was sent by the group into Syria in late 2012, as a part of a tiny advance cluster, with the mission to help plot out the steps for the emergent “Islamic State,” to capture as much territory as possible in Syria, and from there to launch an invasion back into Iraq. Haji Bakr settled obscurely in the small Syrian town of Tal Rifaat, north of Aleppo, where he put his immense knowledge of Saddam’s intelligence and totalitarian practices to work, charting out the invasion of Syria and emergence of the “Islamic State”—plans that were later meticulously carried out by ISIS.
Haji Bakr was killed by a Syrian rebel group in 2014, but not before he had transmitted his knowledge and intelligence plans learned inside Saddam Hussein’s former totalitarian regime to the nascent “Islamic State.” The documents he produced, discovered after his death, consist of 31 pages of handwritten organizational charts, lists, and schedules, all of which describe how to step-by-step subjugate a nation.
It is into this greater intersection between “east and west” — actually: feudal dictatorship and western democracy — that the pro-democratic talking Kurdish presence and armed Peshmerga have emerged as forces for modernity.
Given, perhaps, that few in the general public get this far into the machinery of war, it’s possible that “Moscow-Tehran” and “baby Damascus” (between them) may now engage ISIS . . . more sincerely, with Moscow recovering some face and flexibility for doing so. As much may account for the Peshmerga’s wishing to work with Moscow against ISIS, but as ISIS has made for Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran the most useful enemy, there may be a little bit of funny business in attempting that.
Duplicity would seem much less known where American forces and political resolve have been involved although Turkey’s preference for suppressing the Kurds (while developing its own dictatorship) has complicated the Yankee do-good in the Syrian-Iraq theaters.
BackChannels feels that Washington and others may try to match Moscow in the realm of corrupt “realpolitik” but may suggest that working modern ideals against bad deals may better suit everyone’s future. Moscow may make a show of shutting down ISIS, but its clinging to dictatorship and totalitarian show business bodes ill for genuinely western and western-leaning cooperation.
“Right now, Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds can’t live together under a single administration.”
While the Hebrews are back in the Land of the Hebrews and mighty independent about being so, Baloch, Kurdish, and Pashtun communities, among others, continue to struggle against the dominance of hitherto more powerful states.
BackChannels would promote ethnolinguistic cultural community and political autonomy — i.e., what is really meant by the term “cultural self-determination of a People” — with central and margin-bearing features. To get there, however, requires great strength in independent cultural identity plus the cooperation of tribal leaders in producing a coherent unified proto-national politics.
Is the once communist Kurdish PKK the same as it was back in the 1970s, and may that account for some turn toward Moscow today?
BackChannels hasn’t that answer today. The last time this editor looked into that question was 2007 (as a rank political science beginner on an entirely different blog: http://commart.typepad.com/oppenheim_arts_letters/2007/10/turkeys-pkk-hot.html — Turkey looked every inch a democracy back then; and the PKK looked like old bandits holed up in caves and just about finished as a political force.
Oh my how things have changed!
At this time, it appears that fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria has brought the multiply suzerain Kurdish community together as never before. Now it needs to sustain its cohesion and strength against the pressuring of the errant Arab and Persian worlds once swayed by the Soviet Union and still hungover from the increasingly anachronist experience.
A little BackChannels rah-rah for the home team:
What has given the American model its power has been first and foremost the immense adventurousness and imperialism of the British Empire AND it’s intellectual experience and loading with equal measures Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultural experiences. Had the ideals of the Cyrus Cylinder held sway in the middle east, the conversation would be quite different, but its Magna Carta that has worked its will through the western experience and now returns to intercede on behalf of cultures overrun by gross and malign power.
From the Kurdish general:
“Iraq needs to be divided into three neighboring countries, and each country to govern themselves according to the reality of the region. Sunni and Shia Arabs have different approaches in making relations with others. The Kurdish approach is different than both of them. These things have to be considered, so then each one will be responsible for their people, place and country. And these three groups are better as neighbors. Our message for the world is that Iraq is no longer the same, only its shell remains.”
At the moment, Turkey is not what it was either!
BackChannels suggests the United States would do well to deepen the bond with the pro-democracy forces of the Kurdish political community.
“. . . . You know they have an office for Daesh women? If somehow you forget yourself and speak loudly or take off your gloves, you should pray that if Daesh catches you that it is the Daesh men. You can beg the men, you can apologize, there is a chance that they would limit their abuse to verbal. Daesh women have no hearts.”
Most pass-along through BackChannels now shows up on the blog’s Facebook page. However, with this latest from the counterterrorism research community, BC felt it might be helpful to produce greater awareness of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. As Muslims prove most frequently the targets of “Islamist” zealots, BackChannels would venture to suggest that that majority of the world’s military and paramilitary forces and the journalists covering the same have interest in the study of “violent extremism” and the many experiences and methods that channel humans toward the obliteration of conscience.
ISIL — the “Islamists” — have been long “played” by Moscow and Tehran as a goad to the west and a useful foil in their feudal struggle to sustain the medieval political absolutism that in turn supports their respective dictatorships.
President Trump’s bearing down on ISIS threatens to remove that plaything from the Moscow-Tehran (old “Red-Green Alliance”) toy box. Under pressure, and as much may have taken place in St. Petersburg earlier today, ISIS has now to displace and redistribute its criminal program.
The kind of manipulation involved between Moscow and an assortment of terrorist organizations may often be indirect. As the editor of Back-Channels, I believe that the al-Qaeda presence in Syria was “incubated” of de-emphasized in Syria’s combat planning, so as to shape and “frame” the look of the developing civil war. That’s what the piece is about, and there’s more online to support it.
Regarding the St. Petersburg train bombing — today’s event — there are some tweets now crediting ISIS with the attack.
The prompt: the suggestion that ISIS was finished in Iraq.
Reliant on the open source, BackChannels has been finding it difficult to obtain data regarding the ISIS presence in Mosul and elsewhere in the combined Syrian-Iraq Theater of War. This may be the closest one may get with today’s field reporting:
Some posters on Isis forums linked the explosions to Russia’s backing of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Isis as well as other groups in the Syrian civil war.
The group hasn’t yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but often takes as long as a day to do so. If it does claim responsibility for the incident – which it has done with attacks that officials have later said it had no role in – it would be far from the first time it has done so, after it said it had inspired attempted attacks in Chechnya and Russia earlier this year.
Imagine turning one economically challenged and environmentally troubled middle eastern state into a complete theater of politics and war.
Imagine producing every element in that state and managing the same for political gains in the world beyond its borders.
Then put a label on the production:
Assad vs The Terrorists & Assad OR The Terrorists
Why put on such a show?
To assert the power of absolute power and demonstrate the maniacal ability to visit suffering on innocents with impunity.
To produce a terrorism center that helps goad the west toward patriotic but autocratic and xenophobic nationalism in a way that divides states and encourages the abandonment of core values, especially cultural pluralism and religious tolerance.
To blackmail the west toward choosing to having in power a tyrant as opposed to an equally criminal and tyrannical movement.
To threaten the west — the European Union and NATO — with the monetary, security, and social costs associated with mass migration infused with criminal elements.
To produce a useful tool — “The Terrorists” / ISIL and other al-Qaeda type bands and organizations — with which to demonstrate military prowess in line with a fascist state script.
Herewith, a brief listing of citations building up to the image, quite correctly, of a murderous totalitarian mentality in action in Syria.
The regime continued losing ground over the summer of 2015, provoking a direct Russian intervention in September 2015 that was explained, quite falsely, as an effort to destroy IS. Moscow trained its firepower on the mainstream armed opposition, systematically targeting the parts of the opposition supported by the West, which actually opened space for IS to expand. In July 2016, Russia even attacked US-supported forces that only fight IS.
Rather than counterterrorism, the actual Russian intention was to secure Assad militarily and then extinguish all workable alternatives, thereby rehabilitating Assad politically. To disguise this fact and rewrite the narrative of the intervention as one of anti-extremism, Russia’s ruler, Vladimir Putin, sought to end the major offensive phase of the intervention in March 2016 by pushing IS out of Palmyra.
We, including Muslims, have before us the archaic manifestation of a legacy in religion owned by about 1.6 billion souls. Some, and for reasons ranging from how they were raised to the possession of the adolescent messianic narcissism known to dictators, would place themselves somewhere beneath the Muslim Botherhood (intentional) umbrella.
Wouldn’t the moderate and peaceful, truly peaceful, want the hotheads and the improvident to get up and go where they might be seen and subjected to the horrors of their own dreams?
As I have argued elsewhere (any may feel welcome to ask), the incubating of the al-Qaeda types, including ISIS, in Syria appears to have been designed as political theater — a theater of the very real — to both blackmail and goad the west into concessions before the Assad regime. It was a good KGB-style plan, and, please note, Russia got to channel the worst of its own Chechnya rebels to the fighting (and it slipped in a few spies as well); however, update: NATO may sting post-Soviet neo-feudal Russia and its alignments (Damascus, Tehran) with its own wasps.
While ISIS has been growing or distilling out of other populations those most prone to join the fight as 7th Century barbarians in Syria, the greater world has been witness to the we’re-not-those-Muslims Muslim repudiation of the al-Qaeda types, the common use of the terms “Islamist” and “jihadist” and such to separate the same from the greater Ummah going forward, and, of late, the appearance reform-minded discussions (e.g., New Age Islam) and organizations (e.g., Muslim Reform Movement). Expect traction to take some time.
There are other facets . . . like that of getting the Iraqi military to hold itself together against not only ISIS, from whom it has been wresting territory this past month, but also from Khamenei’s aggression through Iraq’s more “fiery” Shiite militia, long infested with Revolutionary Guard officers.
Archaic | Feudal-Toward-Modern Main Body | Cultural Avant Garde –>
Quite possibly for the public accustomed to ironic simplifications, what Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran have developed in Syria looks a little like the mirror image of CIA’s support for the Taliban in association with Zia Haq’s own conservative Islamism pitched against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In today’s Syrian Tragedy, it’s Moscow, essentially, that appears to manipulate the Sunni-aligned jihadists munching away on the landscape (and enriching itself with oil sales by way of whoever hands over the cash for it).
Be that as it may, it’s looking like the west has been neither blackmailed nor goaded by “Assad vs The Terrorists” has instead absorbed the fallout in finger-wagging (for not intervening) and refugee migration, and may well stick Moscow (Damascus and Tehran) with “The Terrorists”. It may be toward that purpose that the Russian military has strengthened it presence in Syria.
The inspiration for the response: claim that ISIS had been strengthened under the Obama Administration in relation to the Administration weak response to terrorism.
BackChannels counterpoint: the strategy to move the medieval world (and the representatives of political absolute power) toward the modern one (and distributed, checked, and representative power) has a slow track, and in relation to the Islamic Small Wars involves making the feudal world sufficiently visible for fighting. IF that idea works, THEN the post-Soviet axis (Moscow-Damascus-Tehran) has done a right thing for the wrong reasons: intending to get at the west, it has helped produce an enemy in space that can be addressed with conventional forces from every side opposed to it.
In childhood, the kid with the chessboard chooses his opponent. Why not in adulthood? And what if you could not only control you opponent but make the same another rival’s opponent . . . how cool would that be?
That would be so far beyond cool as to have arrived at deliciously evil.
Bashar al-Assad’s best defense, for the realpolitik theatrical “Assad vs The Terrorists” becomes for the general opposition, including NATO opposition to the tyrant’s rule, “Assad or The Terrorists” (mirroring slogan: “Assad, Or We Burn The Country”).
Related to the previous, ISIS becomes the primary military war-on-terror focus for the west, which comes with diplomatic, human, and financial costs to the west.
Incubated by its own enemy, the Assad regime and its backers, ISIS has been positioned in time and space to destroy the revolution once pressed by the Free Syrian Army and serve as a foil to the combined forces of Assad, Khamenei, and Putin, all of whom today may at will attack the same even if preferring other non-ISIS (and still noncombatant) targets.
In ISIS, Khamenei (he may thank Assad and Putin) has chosen a familiar Sunni opposition for Iran’s purchase in Iraq’s Shiite militia community. Once again, Iranian Revolutionary Guard get to get their boots into battle with their old Baathist foes, now serving as generals in Baghdadi’s cause.
Related Teasers, Links, and Reference
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949, has 28 members devoted to the idea of collective security. Prediction: By the time President Obama leaves office in 2017, the NATO pledge of mutual defense in response to aggression will have been exposed as worthless. Objectively the alliance will have ceased to exist. The culprits? Vladimir Putin—and Barack Obama.
The long-term aim would be to defeat or demoralise the non-Isil opposition, so that Isil became the regime’s only enemy. That would force the West to back President Bashar al-Assad against it. “They want to clean the country of non-Isil rebels, and then the US will work with them as Isil will be the only enemy,” the Damascus source said.
Russia bombed Syria for a third day on Friday, mainly hitting areas held by rival insurgent groups rather than the Islamic State fighters it said it was targeting and drawing an increasingly angry response from the West.
The U.S.-led coalition that is waging its own air war against Islamic State called on the Russians to halt strikes on targets other than Islamic State.
Next came Russia’s move on Syria. The weapons that Russia is sending there are not an attempt to settle the conflict. They are there to protect the Assad regime, which is its cause. Moreover, ISIL does not have warplanes: Russia’s air defense missiles are in Syria for a different purpose.
This became clear on Wednesday, when America was given less than an hour’s warning that the Kremlin was imposing, in effect, a no-fly zone in Syria. With this the Russians not only mounted a direct challenge to American authority. They also ripped up the rulebook of military diplomacy. America was aghast, but had no response.
The Ba’ath regime was strongly anti-American, so it’s not surprising that–despite the unfortunate fate of the Iraqi Communist Party–it was primarily a client of the Soviet Union (not the US), and this relationship continued up until the moment when the Soviet Union collapsed.
That Baathists helped ISIS, before the declaration of the ‘Caliphate,’ to rush into Iraq last year, and assist in the battles for key nodes in Iraq, is indisputable. Even in the Second Battle of Tikrit, just fought in the past few weeks, Baathists were a prominent component of ISIS forces. The very fact that Saddam Hussein’s al-Tikriti tribe was tossed out of their tribal domain certainly bore the hallmarks of the ultimate revenge against the Baathist core.
Moscow’s action were in line with the strategy it had used to defeat the separatist movement in Chechnya, infiltrating the insurgency, driving it into extremism, and facilitating the arrival of al-Qaeda jihadists who displaced the Chechen nationalists. In Syria, Russia’s actions accord with the strategy adopted by the regime and its Iranian masters to present Assad as the last line of defence against a terrorist takeover of Syria and a genocide against the minorities. New evidence has emerged to underline these points.
Testimony from gendarmerie officers in court documents reviewed by Reuters allege that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells were carried in trucks accompanied by state intelligence agency (MIT) officials more than a year ago to parts of Syria under Islamist control.
Four trucks were searched in the southern province of Adana in raids by police and gendarmerie, one in November 2013 and the three others in January 2014, on the orders of prosecutors acting on tip-offs that they were carrying weapons, according to testimony from the prosecutors, who now themselves face trial.
While the first truck was seized, the three others were allowed to continue their journey after MIT officials accompanying the cargo threatened police and physically resisted the search, according to the testimony and prosecutor’s report.
Doha-Washington may be competing with Tehran-Moscow (with Damascus between them), and the point of both would seem to be to have a scourge, accidentally or deliberately, worth elimination and the claim of rescue.
Assad managed to turn an “Arab Spring” revolution toward democracy and modernity into a deeply medieval and polarized civil war pitting his “secular” regime against Islamic extremists. It didn’t start out that way — and missing from the fields of battle: about nine million displaced Syrians.
On the Sunni side of this geopolitical knot (a knot because the Soviet Union was not finished off but merely transferred to the KGB, which has pursued a deeply feudal and equally thieving — internally and externally — course) stands an apparently duplicitous alliance that started out intending to knock Iran out of Syria (taking care of Hezbollah on the way) and produce an updated Islamic.
Things are just not working out the way they seem to have been planned — and much of that planning may have been to promote one appearance or another of a version of political reality. Again: there’s too much of theater in the combat.
The tail isn’t wagging the dog.
The whole dog is wagging the dog, from the tip o’ the nose to the end o’ the tail, U.S.-NATO and perhaps a Sunni-aligned alliance on one side while on the other: Neo-Feudal Russia, today a KGB/FSB Dictatorship, and its familiar “Axis of Evil” partners, Khamenei-Setad, Bashar the Butcher, and assorted anti-American and national socialist whatnot worldwide.
And hanging over every inch of the latest lightning in this storm: the immense and darker cloud of a nuclear umbrella.
In Tehran, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brigadier-General Massoud Jazayeri also denied any collaboration. Iran considered the US responsible for Iraq’s “unrest and problems”, he said, adding that the US would “definitely not have a place in the future of that country”.