Category Archives: Syria

West “ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria’s Assad step aside”

Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde report for The Guardian:

A man walks among the rubble of collapsed buildings in Douma after what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Assad earlier this year.Russia proposed more than three years ago that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could step down as part of a peace deal, according to a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time.

Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.

Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN security council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to cede power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition.

But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.

“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said in an interview.


John Kerry Exaggerates Recent Russian Role in Syria: Interview with Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is a foreign correspondent for The Independent and is the author of a number of books including The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. In this interview he says that Russia is the main arms supplier to the Syrian government and has been for around a decade, but also argues John Kerry’s protests are exaggerated. (The Real News)

A Thousand 9/11s

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Fourteen years ago, 2,996 people were murdered when four civilian planes in the United States were hijacked by al-Qaeda extremists, one flown into the Pentagon, and two into the World Trade Centre towers.

But this was just the beginning of the bloodletting.

The 9/11 attacks ushered in a new era of global warfare to root out extremism. Far from defeating al-Qaeda, the ‘War on Terror’ has seen its enemy metastasise into a self-styled “Islamic State” (IS).

Along the way, we have seen the collapse of the rule of law: the illegal invasion of Iraq, the fabrication of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), extra-judicial assassinations, systematic torture (still continuing), organised kidnapping, indefinite detention and global mass surveillance.

We have also seen the wanton abuse of law to extend unaccountable state authority across Western homelands: eroding habeas corpus, policing ordinary citizens, normalising racial profiling and criminalising dissent.

Conservative figures suggest that since 9/11, the “War on Terror” has killed some 14,000 Afghans, 35,000 Pakistanis, and 120,000 Iraqis – excluding indirect deaths from destruction of power, water, sanitation and medical facilities: 150,000 people overall. That’s fifty 9/11s.

At the higher end, a survey of major epidemiological studies by the Nobel Prize-winning doctors group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, puts the direct and indirect death toll at some 1.3 million people. That’s over four hundred 9/11s. Yet another study based on UN Population Division mortality data suggests the full death toll may be as high as four million: that’s over a thousand 9/11s.

The casualty figures keep wracking up.


Drowned Syrian boy photo: Social media at its most hollow and hypocritical?

Max Fisher writes for Vox:

Migrants disembark from a bus near Athens, Greece (Dan Kitwood/Getty)Looking at the same photo that everyone is looking at this week, of a young Syrian refugee boy whose body had washed up on a Turkish beach, and reading about the boy’s brief and difficult life, I found myself torn between two conflicting reactions. On the one hand, I was saddened by the needless death of this young child, and outraged by the many factors that contributed to it: the Syrian war, European hostility to migration, and the world’s callous indifference to the ever-worsening refugee crisis. Those factors are important, so the photograph’s ability to call the world’s attention to them makes it a powerful journalistic tool.

But I am also uncomfortable with the way those images have been converted into just another piece of viral currency. There is a line between compassion and voyeurism. And as that photo was shared and retweeted over and over again, converted into listicles and social-friendly packages, it felt more and more like the latter.

I am reminded of a 2012 article by the novelist Teju Cole, “The White-Savior Industrial Complex,” responding to what was the social media caring experience of that moment, a web video called “Kony 2012” that asked the world to combat Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony by “making him go viral.”

Cole wrote about the cycle of internet outrage and compassion that, often, ends up doing little more than providing entertainment and validation for Western audiences. Those audiences, rather than being compelled to ask themselves whether they had a hand in the faraway tragedy they are sharing to Facebook, get to pat themselves on the back for being part of the solution.

But social media voyeurism is no solution. It doesn’t help that child, or others like him. It just exploits his tragic death as a source of maudlin but oh-so-shareable emotional thrills.


The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the ‘Do Something’ Lie

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Syrian refugees coming ashore in Greece (photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/Getty)It didn’t take long for the universal and entirely justified outrage over a picture of a dead three-year-old to be funneled by the “do something” pundits to justify regime change in Syria. The “do something” crowd wants us to “do something” about the refugee crisis and “solve” the “bigger problem,” which, of course, involves regime change. To create the moral urgency and to tether the refugee crisis to their long-standing warmongering, these actors have to insist the US has “done nothing” about Syria.

[…] But this is all a fantasy. The US has been “intervening” in the Syrian civil war, in measurable and significant ways, since at least 2012—most notably by arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces.

[…] In addition to this, the Obama administration has engaged in crippling sanctions against the Assad government, provided air support for those looking to depose him, incidentally funneled arms to ISIS, and not incidentally aligned the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army with Al Qaeda. Regardless of one’s position on Syria—or whether they think the US is somehow secretly in alliance with Assad, as some advance—one thing cannot be said: that the US has “done nothing in Syria.” This is historically false.

Most of those advocating for the removal of Assad probably know this, but can’t say “the US should do more,” or “they haven’t done enough,” because this would raise the uncomfortable question of what they have done already. And the answer to that, as is with most US meddling in other countries, is a lot of covert programs US officials—and thus their court press—can’t openly acknowledge. So those in the establishment media are left to do a strange dance: at once ignoring all the US has already done while insisting the US should join a fight it’s been a party to for over three years.


CENTCOM Document Reveals Coalition’s Hidden Civilian Carnage in Syria and Iraq

Chris Woods reports for

A newly-declassified CENTCOM document – published by Airwars and international media partners for the first time on Thursday –  reveals that by early May of this year, the anti-ISIL Coalition had already internally investigated dozens of events involving at least 325 possible civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Yet despite often significant published evidence of civilians killed in Coalition strikes, most allegations were dismissed as “Not credible” within 48 hours – with few signs of later follow-ups.

The document also reveals for the first time that French, Canadian, Dutch and Australian aircraft have all been involved in problem incidents in Iraq, which between them allegedly killed up to 30 civilians.

The previously-secret 14-page file – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by journalist Joseph Trevithick for War Is Boring – offers a rare insight into internal military workings. It also makes clear that the US and its 12 international allies have long known of significant allegations of civilians killed in some 6,500 airstrikes – far more than the two deaths presently admitted to.


Banned Cluster Bombs Were Used in Five Countries, Report Says

Rick Gladstone reports for The New York Times:

[…] The organization, the Cluster Munition Coalition, said in its annual report that use of the bombs had been documented in armed conflicts in LibyaSudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.

The use of these weapons was criticized by all 117 countries that have joined the treaty, which took effect five years ago. Their use was also criticized by a number of others that have not yet joined the treaty but appear to have abided by its provisions.

[…] The treaty prohibits all use of cluster munitions and sets deadlines for the destruction of stockpiles and the clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster bomblets, which can be deadly if disturbed. The treaty also provides for assistance to victims of cluster bombs.

The United States, which is among the countries that have not signed the treaty, still produces and exports cluster munitions. In a telephone interview, Ms. Wareham said that although the United States had sharply reduced its supply of cluster munitions, at least three different types of American-made cluster munitions had been used by Saudi-led forces this year in the Yemen conflict.


David Petraeus’ bright idea: Give terrorists weapons to beat terrorists

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

The latest brilliant plan to curtail Isis in the Middle East? Give more weapons to current members of al-Qaida. The Daily Beast reported that former CIA director David Petraeus, still somehow entrenched in the DC Beltway power circles despite leaking highly classified secrets, is now advocating arming members of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, an offshoot of al-Qaida and a designated terrorist organization. Could there be a more dangerous and crazy idea?

Petraeus was forced to respond on Tuesday, the day after his article provoked a firestorm, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that he doesn’t want to arm al-Nusra itself, just “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra”. He thinks the US could somehow “peel off” these fighters and convince to join the much weaker rebel army that al-Nusra recently decimated. Oh okay, then. He’s in favor of arming only the “moderate” members of al-Qaida: that sounds so much better.

Let’s put aside for a second that there’s not much difference between arming al-Nusra and arming “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra.” How the US can possibly “peel off” fighters from a terrorist group is a complete mystery. In Iraq – Petraeus is apparently using part of the largely failedIraq “surge” as his blueprint here – he convinced some Sunni tribes to switch sides temporarily, but that was with over 100,000 US troops on the ground to do the convincing. Does Petraeus think we should invade Syria to accomplish the same feat?


Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees

Helena Smith reports for The Guardian:

Young boy washed up on the beach.The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.

The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.

A second image portrays a grim-faced policeman carrying the tiny body away. Within hours it had gone viral becoming the top trending picture on Twitter under the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik (humanity washed ashore).

Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said: “This tragic image of a little boy who’s lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life. This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”


CIA Running Anti-ISIS Drone Campaign in Syria

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

[…] The CIA has been involved in various operations against ISIS for years, of course, and has also been doing all sorts of different things in Syria, mostly arming dubious rebel factions. That they are escalating this to a drone war concurrent with an actual war must inevitably raise eyebrows, as previously the US has been very careful to keep CIA drone wars distinct from Pentagon-run wars.

The war is targeting ISIS so far, but officials say that they are also authorized to attack al-Qaeda militants or any other “operatives” suspected of advancing ISIS goals to expand their caliphate further across Syria, a nation they already control more than half of.

But officials say that the CIA war, at least in Syria, is comparatively small, and that they’ve launched relatively few strikes compared to the military. That the two are both launching strikes in the same theater will only add to complications about investigating civilian casualties, as it will allow each side to deny being the one behind a particular incident.

Officials are also insisting that the Syria war won’t be using the same model as the Pakistan and Yemen drone wars, but rather that the Syria CIA war, in which they are working closely with special forces, could itself be a model for even more drone wars elsewhere around the world.

This plan to expand CIA war-making comes amid some pushes from the Pentagon, which believes that as the military wars should sort of be their thing exclusively. Running wars concurrently only adds to the confusion, and seems to reflect an intention by the Obama Administration to keep the CIA running wars of its own outside of traditional military purview.


Warnings of jihadists among Syria’s rebels came early, were ignored

Hannah Allam reports for McClatchy:

[…] By all accounts – internal memos, intelligence briefings, dispatches from the ground – conventional wisdom was that the extremists were recruiting or routing mainstream fighters, and that the loosely affiliated moderate factions known collectively as the Free Syrian Army were no match for the more disciplined and better armed jihadists.

Extensive interviews with Syria policymakers from the Obama administration, some of whom spoke on the record and others who requested anonymity so as to freely describe the administration’s behind-the-scenes debates, reveal that the Obama administration was warned early on that al Qaida-linked fighters were gaining prominence within the anti-Assad struggle.

Senior officials chose to look the other way, however, and flog a misleading narrative of a viable moderate force. Today, the same extremists have seized wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, uprooting millions of people, threatening the stability of U.S. regional allies, and sucking the United States into another open-ended conflict in the Middle East.


Officials: Islamic State arose from US support for al-Qaeda in Iraq

Nafeez Ahmed writes for INSURGE INTELLIGENCE:

A new memoir by a former senior State Department analyst provides stunning details on how decades of support for Islamist militants linked to Osama bin Laden brought about the emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS).

The book establishes a crucial context for recent admissions by Michael T. Flynn, the retired head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), confirming that White House officials made a “willful decision” to support al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists in Syria — despite being warned by the DIA that doing so would likely create an ‘ISIS’-like entity in the region.

J. Michael Springmann, a retired career US diplomat whose last government post was in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, reveals in his new book that US covert operations in alliance with Middle East states funding anti-Western terrorist groups are nothing new. Such operations, he shows, have been carried out for various short-sighted reasons since the Cold War and after.

In the 1980s, as US support for mujahideen fighters accelerated in Afghanistan to kick out the Soviet Union, Springmann found himself unwittingly at the heart of highly classified operations that allowed Islamist militants linked to Osama bin Laden to establish a foothold within the United States.

After the end of the Cold War, Springman alleged, similar operations continued in different contexts for different purposes — in the former Yugoslavia, in Libya and elsewhere. The rise of ISIS, he contends, was a predictable outcome of this counterproductive policy.


SOHR: 240,000 Killed, Mostly Combatants, in Syrian Civil War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has issued a new assessment of the overall death toll of the Syrian Civil War, showing nearly a quarter of a million people, 240,381, have been killed since March 2011. Most of the slain were combatants.

The largest portion of the slain were pro-government forces, some 88,616. 50,570 of those were government soldiers, and the rest were allied militias. 42,384 rebels were reported killed, and 34,375 foreign fighters.

The observatory identified 71,781 civilians killed over the course of the war. The split between civilians and militias, as always, is a matter of no small dispute, with various sides often trying to downplay the deaths of civilians in their respective attacks.

The observatory data shows about 10,000 more slain since their last data, which was two months prior. There has been a renewed effort from the UN Special Envoy to Syria to kickstart some new peace talks aimed at resolving at least some of the fighting within the increasingly complex war.


Report: Hundreds of Civilians Killed by U.S.-Led Bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

new report from a group of journalists and researchers says that hundreds of civilians have died during airstrikes by the U.S. and other nations fighting the Islamic State, a marked contrast to the Pentagon’s official admission of just two civilian deaths.

The report, from the nonprofit group Airwars, which tracks coalition airstrikes on Iraq and Syria, says that it has documented between 459 and 591 civilian deaths in 52 credible incidents. In one of the worst cases, in Al Bab, Syria, a U.S. strike on a local Islamic State headquarters being used as a jail killed up to 58 non-combatants, including women and teenagers.

Next Saturday marks the first anniversary of the United States’ bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Over the past year, a U.S.-led coalition including Canada, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and other European and Gulf states has carried out over 5,800 airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria.


US Intel Agencies: ISIS No Weaker After Year of US Bombings

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

According to officials familiar with the situation, US intelligence agencies have offered a new assessment of ISIS, cautioning that a solid year of US airstrikes against them in Iraq and Syria hasn’t left ISIS any weaker than they were when the strikes began.

Surprisingly, even though the military has been bragging about how great the war is going throughout the year, military commanders aren’t disputing the assessment, and are simply saying that they believe progress will come at some point in the future, when Iraq retakes Ramadi.

Of course, ISIS didn’t have Ramadi a year ago, and only captured it two months ago. At the time, Pentagon officials dismissed the major city as of no strategic importance, so it is surprising they are now presenting its future recapture as a metric for success.

Either way, the assessment is damning to Pentagon claims that the strategy is sound, but at the same time, there is no indication that anyone in the administration is even going to consider revising the war strategy, as officials continue to insist it is a winning recipe.


Obama’s deal with Turkey is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken ISIS

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

US aircraft have yet to start using Incirlik airbase, and the reason is that Turkey does not want US aircraft using it to launch air strikes (AP)The deal between the US and Turkey which will allow American bombers to use Incirlik airbase while Turkey takes action against Islamic State (Isis) looks stranger and stranger. When first announced over a week ago, US officials spoke triumphantly of the agreement being “a game-changer” in the war against Isis. In fact, the war waged by Turkey in the days since this great American diplomatic success has been almost entirely against the Kurds, at home and abroad.

Turkish jets are pounding sites occupied by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) guerrillas in the Qandil Mountains and other parts of northern Iraq. Inside Turkey, the majority of those detained by the security forces turn out to be Kurdish or left-wing activists and not suspected Isis sympathisers. Prosecutions are threatened against MPs of the largely Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which has tirelessly advocated peace between the PKK and the Turkish government. Evidently, the HDP’s offence was to win 13 per cent of the votes in Turkey’s general election on 7 June, thereby depriving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP of its parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002.

It is now becoming clear that two crucial parts of the accord were not agreed at the time of the historic announcement. The US Air Force was desperate to get the use of Incirlik, 60 miles from the Syrian border, in order to intensify its bombardment of Isis. American planes currently have to fly long distances from Bahrain, Jordan and an aircraft carrier in the Gulf. The failure of the US air campaign to prevent Isis fighters capturing Ramadi and Palmyra in May intensified the sense of urgency.


Fighting Both Sides of the Same War: Is Turkey Using Attacks On Islamic State As Cover for Assault on Kurds?

‘Turkish jets have reportedly launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq since airstrikes began last week, effectively ending a two-year truce. Over the past week, the Turkish military has launched combat operations on two fronts: one against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria, and another against Kurds inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, where Kurdish groups have been fighting against the Islamic State. This means Turkey is now essentially bombing both sides of the same war. During an emergency session of NATO in Brussels Tuesday, the body offered support for Turkey’s military campaigns, although some member states expressed unease over the crackdown against the Kurds. Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds come just a month after the pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party won 13 percent of the vote, helping to deprive President Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP Party of a majority in the parliament for the first time since 2002. Over the past week, Turkey has detained more than 1,000 people in a series of raids, many targeting members of Kurdish groups. We speak to Kani Xulam, Director of the American Kurdish Information Network.’ (Democracy Now!)

Endless enemies: How the US is supporting the Islamic State by fighting it

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

‘[…] So on the pretext of fighting Assad, the US armed and funded extremist Syrian rebels through its regional allies, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, which went on to spawn the “Islamic State”.

The US is now intent on fighting Assad’s enemy, IS, in turn bolstering Assad.

Simultaneously, Assad’s ambiguous strategic and energy relationship with IS is empowering the movement, and the US is coordinating with Assad to execute airstrikes against Assad’s chief regional enemy, IS.

But, the US is still working with its allies to arm a coalition of “moderate” rebels to fight both IS and Assad.

That “moderate” coalition, however, includes al-Qaeda’s Syria arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is being supported due to its rivalry with IS. Yet al-Nusra maintains tactical alliances with IS, while other FSA “moderates” also coordinate with IS to counter Assad, to the point that Western, Gulf and Turkish supplies to “moderates” are at risk of being systematically diverted to al-Nusra and IS.

If you have difficulty understanding this, don’t worry. I don’t understand it either. But what’s clear is that the ever shape-shifting US war on al-Qaeda, IS and Assad, is propping up al-Qaeda, IS and Assad.

On top of all this, the general Syrian population is increasingly cognisant of these contradictions, and disillusioned about the US-led strategy and its motives, not to mention angered at ongoing civilian casualties from airstrikes. That, too, is driving ordinary people into the arms of extremists.

It doesn’t really matter whether you think all this is a result of incompetence or conspiracy, or a bit of both. The upshot is unequivocal: This strategy is not going to eliminate terrorism or make us safer. On the contrary, it is a perfect recipe for endless war.’


British pilots took part in anti-ISIS bombing campaign in Syria

Josh Halliday, Ewen MacAskill and Frances Perraudin report for The Guardian:

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

The House of Commons voted against military action in Syria in 2013 and parliamentary authorisation has so far only been given to UK air strikes against Isis in neighbouring Iraq.

[…] The revelation is likely to infuriate MPs who voted against the military intervention. John Baron, the Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay and a member of the foreign affairs select committee, called for the immediate end to UK military strikes in Syria and urged Fallon to explain himself to parliament.

“What this does show is at the very minimum an insensitivity to parliament’s will,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’


ISIS, a year of the caliphate: Have US tactics only helped to make Islamists more powerful?

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

The “Islamic State” is stronger than it was when it was first proclaimed on 29 June last year, shortly after Isis fighters captured much of northern and western Iraq.

Its ability to go on winning victories was confirmed on 17 May this year in Iraq, when it seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and again four days later in Syria, when it took Palmyra, one of the most famous cities of antiquity and at the centre of modern transport routes.

The twin victories show how Isis has grown in strength: it can now simultaneously attack on multiple fronts, hundreds of miles apart, a capacity it did not have a year ago. In swift succession, its forces defeated the Iraqi and Syrian armies and, equally telling, neither army was able to respond with an effective counter-attack.

Supposedly these successes, achieved by Isis during its summer offensive in 2014, should no longer be feasible in the face of air strikes by the US-led coalition. These began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with US officials recently claiming that 4,000 air strikes had killed 10,000 Isis fighters. Certainly, the air campaign has inflicted heavy losses on Isis, but it has made up for these casualties by conscripting recruits within the self-declared caliphate, an area the size of Great Britain with a population of five or six million.’


Samantha Power: Liberal War Hawk

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

President Barack Obama talks with Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, following a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)[…] Though Power is a big promoter of the “responsibility to protect” – or “R2P” – she operates with glaring selectivity in deciding who deserves protection as she advances a neocon/liberal interventionist agenda. She is turning “human rights” into an excuse not to resolve conflicts but rather to make them bloodier.

Thus, in Power’s view, the overthrow and punishment of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad takes precedence over shielding Alawites and other minorities from the likely consequence of Sunni-extremist vengeance. And she has sided with the ethnic Ukrainians in their slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

In both cases, Power spurns pragmatic negotiations that could avert worsening violence as she asserts a black-and-white depiction of these crises. More significantly, her strident positions appear to have won the day with President Barack Obama, who has relied on Power as a foreign policy adviser since his 2008 campaign.

Power’s self-righteous approach to human rights – deciding that her side wears white hats and the other side wears black hats – is a bracing example of how “human rights activists” have become purveyors of death and destruction or what some critics have deemed “the weaponization of human rights.”’


How the US fuelled the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

Eva Bee illustration[…] A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.

Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.’


General Petraeus: U.S. “Probably Losing” ISIS War, New Strategy Needed

Ex-intel officials: Pentagon report proves US complicity in ISIS

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

As I reported on May 22nd, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document obtained by Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information confirms that the US intelligence community foresaw the rise of ISIS three years ago, as a direct consequence of the support to extremist rebels in Syria.

The August 2012 ‘Information Intelligence Report’ (IIR) reveals that the overwhelming core of the Syrian insurgency at that time was dominated by a range of Islamist militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). It warned that the “supporting powers” to the insurgency — identified in the document as the West, Gulf states, and Turkey — wanted to see the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria to “isolate” the Assad regime.

The document also provided an extraordinarily prescient prediction that such an Islamist quasi-statelet, backed by the region’s Sunni states, would amplify the risk of the declaration of an “Islamic State” across Iraq and Syria. The DIA report even anticipated the fall of Mosul and Ramadi.’


Al Qaeda Syria Boss Says That His “So-Called Khorasan Group Doesn’t Exist”

Murtaza Hussein reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Al Qaeda Syria Boss Says That His “So-Called Khorasan Group Doesn’t Exist”In early September 2014, an Associated Press story quoted unnamed U.S. officials discussing an imminent threat from a previously unknown, Syria-based terror outfit called the “Khorasan Group.” U.S. officials told the AP that the jihadist group was stocked with al Qaeda veterans and was plotting imminent attacks against U.S.-bound airline flights. Officials also suggested that the level of danger posed by the group exceeded that of ISIS, the militant group which now controls much of Iraq and Syria.

Weeks later, after similarly breathless coverage of the so-called Khorasan Group from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, CBS News and others, American airstrikes against Syria commenced, including strikes that were said to have specifically targeted this shadowy new organization.

In the immediate aftermath of the strikes, something remarkable happened. American officials almost immediately began retracting their claims about the level of danger posed by the Khorasan Group. FBI Director James Comey, addressing previous assertions that the group posed an imminent threat to American interests, said, “I don’t know exactly what that word means … ‘imminent.’”’


Amid the ruins of Syria, is Bashar al-Assad now finally facing the end?

Martin Chulov reports for The Guardian:

Syria's president Bashar al-AssadOne evening at the end of March, a Syrian rebel leader returned from a meeting across the border in Turkey and called an urgent gathering of his commanders. The five men turned up at their boss’s house in Idlib province expecting to receive the same pleas for patience that they had always heard and more grim news about cash and weapons being hard to find. This time, though, they were in for a shock.

“He arrived looking eager,” said one of the commanders. “That caught our attention straight away. But when he started to speak, we were all stunned.”

The leader, who asked that his unit not be identified, said he told his men that the grinding war of attrition they had fought against the Syrian government since early 2012 was about to turn in their favour.

“And the reason for that was that I could now get nearly all the weapons I wanted,” he told the Observer. “For the first time they were not holding anything from us – except anti-aircraft missiles. The Turks and their friends wanted this over with.”

The leader says he explained that they and every other opposition group in the north, with the exception of Islamic State (Isis), were about to be beneficiaries of a detente between regional powers who had agreed to put their own rivalries aside and focus on a common enemy – the Syrian regime.’


Syria regime preparing for partition of the country

Sammy Ketz reports for The Times of Israel:

Weakened by years of war, Syria’s government appears ready for the country’s de facto partition, defending strategically important areas and leaving much of the country to rebels and jihadists, experts and diplomats say.

The strategy was in evidence last week with the army’s retreat from the ancient central city of Palmyra after an advance by the Islamic State group.

“It is quite understandable that the Syrian army withdraws to protect large cities where much of the population is located,” said Waddah Abded Rabbo, director of Syria’s al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime.

“The world must think about whether the establishment of two terrorist states is in its interests or not,” he said, in reference to IS’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq, and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front’s plans for its own ’emirate’ in northern Syria.’


Assad Has Lost Over 50% of Syria, Country Could Turn Into Another Afghanistan: Interview with Larry Wilkerson

Larry Wilkerson is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and a former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell. In this interview he says that Syria could turn into another Afghanistan with America’s and Saudi Arabia’s policies in support radical groups creating blowback which will be significant to the Middle East region. (The Real News)

Who’s Supporting Assad? Interview with Charles Glass

‘Charles Glass discusses his essay “In the Syria We Don’t Know.” He drove through Syria in October 2014 to see how the country’s civil war had impacted daily life. With Bashar al-Assad benefiting from US-led airstrikes on the Islamic State, and large areas of the country under his regime’s control, Glass found people carrying on at a relatively normal pace amid the conflict. But signs of death and personal loss were inescapable, as resentment mounted among citizens who feel they have no choice but to support Assad or be slaughtered at the hands of Sunni radicals.’ (VICE News)

ISIS and the ‘Costa’ caliphate: what a militant claims the ‘holiday’ state is like