Growth of ISIL – a planned decision: Syrian perspective

Those who have never been to Syria may find it hard to imagine that three years ago extremist groups, such as Al Qaeda and ISIL had no presence there. The idea of public beheadings on Syrian streets was unthinkable. MIMI AL LAHAM*
From the Jasmine city of Damascus (Dimashq) today (Click to nlarge)

From the Jasmine city of Damascus (Dimashq) today (Click to enlarge)

It is easier still to forget, that only four years ago, Libya had the highest Human Development Index of any country in Africa, that there was no Al Qaeda or ISIL in Iraq a decade ago, and that Afghanistan was a secular modern developed country with a capital that three decades ago was named “the jewel of Asia.”

It may be more comforting for the average westerner to imagine that these Middle Eastern nations were always barbaric backwaters in constant need of western intervention. But it is western intervention in these nations that has caused the rise of Al Qaeda and ISIL.

A ‘responsibility to protect’ NATO interests

Claims that interventions by the USA in foreign nations are motivated by a humanitarian concern for civilian lives and democracy are readily contradicted by facts. Last year the State Department backed a coup against a democratically elected president of Ukraine and subsequently backed his replacement in bombarding civilian areas in east Ukraine.

Bush-Saudi-handsIn the mission to overthrow the Syrian government, the USA has allied itself with undemocratic Gulf monarchies, including Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive governments in the world. And over a period of months a US aerial bombardment of Syria has already resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.

The so called ‘moderate rebels’ that NATO and some Gulf states have been supporting to overthrow the Syrian government, have made it clear they are not fighting for democracy. The US administration is forced to use the word ‘moderate’ as opposed to ‘secular’ to describe them, as there are no secular insurgent groups.

They are all shades of Islamist, arguably moderate only in comparison to Al Qaeda and ISIL, with whom they are often allied. Jamaal Ma’arouf, the leader of the US sanctioned militia group Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), recently admitted to the Independent that his groups frequently fight alongside the Al Qaeda group Jabhat Al Nusra. In the last few days a large number of SRF members defected to Jabhat Al Nusra taking US provided weapons with them.

The real objective of the US directed intervention in Syria, is not the forcible installation of democracy, nor the protection of human rights, but the destruction of the country. Syria does not kowtow to US hegemony and has sought to have independent control over its own resources. It is one of the few countries in the Middle East that does not house military bases nor hold any loans from the IMF. Damascus opposes the US ally in the region, Israel, which occupies a part of Syria’s territory. This has placed it on the so-called “axis of evil” list of countries to be attacked, alongside Iraq and Libya.

The gulf Arab states who back regime change in Syria; Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates along with NATO-member Turkey — have been openly supporting extremist groups such as the Al Qaeda factions Jabhat Al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham since the start of the crisis.  US Vice President Joe Biden admitted this in a question-answer session at Harvard, denying any US approval or involvement in this support. In reality these states simply provided the USA with plausible deniability in its policy of backing the extremist groups. The growth of ISIL as a result, is not an unintended consequence of incompetent US policy makers, but is part of a well-planned decision to overthrow secular nationalist governments in the Middle East through the use of extremist groups.

ISIS protecting US oil interests

Iran-Syia pipelineAs well as overthrowing defiant governments, ISIL provides the USA and its allies with a justification for war that is far more palatable to their people than supporting democracy, or controlling weapons of mass destruction: fighting terrorism. However, the US does not intend to defeat ISIL with the aerial bombardments of Syria and Iraq.

If they were indeed serious about defeating ISIL, they would not be turning a blind eye to Turkey’s long standing and continued policy of allowing ISIL to cross its borders into Syria. Furthermore, they would prevent the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from discretely providing ISIS with billions in funding.  They would not be undermining the Syrian army by continuing to openly back other insurgent groups, whilst knowing the Syrian army is the only force on the ground that stands a chance of repelling ISIL. Far from weakening ISIL, US involvement has boosted ISIL recruitment. It has given the organisation the legitimacy it desires. ISIL is able to appear to be fighting the USA in the eyes of the Islamists it wants to recruit.

Syria.gas pipelinesThe USA’s real objective in creating the anti-ISIS coalition is to create perpetual instability in Syria. Former Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta said that the war on ISIS could go on for 30 years. Long-term instability would prevent the Syrian state from constructing the Syria-Iraq-Iran Pipeline, an agreement signed instead of a proposed Qatari pipeline agreement. The US-backed Qatari plan to run a gas pipeline from Qatar’s North field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey to supply European markets would have sidelined Russia. This in turn would give the USA and its allies a monopoly over the European energy market and grant them greater leverage in foreign policy. Isolating Russia and China from influences in the Middle East, Europe, and the Mediterranean is yet another objective in the US establishment’s grand strategy. The USA is no stranger to backing extremists in order to isolate Russia, after all they created Al Qaeda to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

It’s no coincidence that ISIL is in control of all the oil rich areas in Iraq and Syria, they have provided the USA with the perfect excuse to target Syrian oil and gas infrastructure. Whilst the US has been bombing ISIL targets in Kobane, ISIL has been able to overrun the Al Sha’ar gas field. It’s difficult to believe that ISIL could advance if it is facing the might of the US military and has no state backer.

The only region where the USA may be interested in defeating ISIL, is the designated Kurdish areas. The US fights ISIL harder in Iraq’s Irbil and Syria’s Kobane than anywhere else. The USA also prefers to arm Kurdish and sectarian militias over State actors as this will help dissolve borders and balkanise the Middle East, a policy coined by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as the “project for a new Middle East.” This nation state itself is an obstacle to absolute US control over world resources and trade.

The interests of the US establishment do not align with the interests of the American people. Its policy of supporting instability has not only hurt Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, but has led to the rise of extremist ideologies in Europe and beyond. Many of the fighters now hail from Britain and pose a grave threat to the British public upon their return. The UK has followed the USA into enough ill-fated wars and must now concentrate on protecting its people’s interests. Young Syrian soldiers are sacrificing their lives to keep the streets of Syria and the world safe from ISIL. It is time to support, or in the least, stop undermining their fight.

Mimi Al Laham is a Syrian-Australian commentator and blogger @Partisangirl


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