READING radical alternative news and commentary about Western foreign policy often leads to intense self-doubt and to questions like “why isn’t anyone else talking about this?”, “am I reading this right?” and even “perhaps I am losing my mind?”
Two recent news reports about the US involvement in Syria have triggered these exact questions for me.
Last month a formerly classified August 2012 Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) report was published by the right-wing watchdog Judicial Watch.
In the heavily redacted document the DIA — the intelligence arm of the US Department of Defence — notes that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI (al-Qaida in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”
The next sentence in the report is this: “The West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition, while Russia, China and Iran support the (Bashar al-Assad) regime.”
Later, the DIA makes another extraordinary statement: “There is the possibility of (the opposition) establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in Eastern Syria (…) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre and arguably the leading expert on the Syrian insurgency, provided the second jaw-dropping reading experience in May 2015. “The US-led operations room in southern Turkey, which co-ordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups (…) specifically encouraged a closer co-operation with Islamists commanding frontline operations,” including with official al-Qaida branch Jabhat al-Nusra, Lister explained in Foreign Policy magazine.
So, to summarise, the West — the US and likely Britain too — was supporting Syria’s armed insurgency in 2012 in the full knowledge it was dominated by Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida in Iraq. Three years later the US is encouraging rebel groups to co-operate with al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.
What happened, you might well ask, to the epic generational struggle against al-Qaida and radical jihadists that we have been fighting since 2001 to save Western civilisation? A war and evil enemy, lest we forget, that has been repeatedly hyped up by a pliant media and supported by all the main political parties in the US and Britain.
Except for Seumas Milne in the Guardian, the mainstream media has ignored the extraordinary revelations of the DIA and Lister. The BBC has, as far as I’m aware, not mentioned either on any of its many news platforms.
Incredibly, the highly respected Middle East specialist Shadi Hamid describes the Obama administration as “opting to remain disengaged in Syria”.
In addition to this explosive new evidence of Western support for jihadists, the West’s key allies in the region have also been supporting the more extreme elements of the resistance to the Syrian government.
In August 2014 the Washington Post reported that before their blitz in Iraq, “Turkey rolled out the red carpet” to Islamic State, eager to aid any enemy of the Assad government. “Wounded jihadists from the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front (…) were treated at Turkish hospitals,” the Post noted. “Most important, the Turks winked as (…) Turkish towns became way stations for moving foreign fighters and arms across the border.”
The Wall Street Journal carried a similar report in March this year, except this time it concerned Israel and how some of the al-Nusra Front’s “severely wounded fighters are regularly taken across the frontier fence to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals.”
Unsurprisingly, on this issue the Western media invariably report the official US government line that the US is opposed to these actions and is putting pressure on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop supporting jihadists in Syria.
However, a close reading of mainstream news reports suggests that far from being opposed, the US is deeply involved in these nefarious networks. For example, earlier this year the Wall Street Journal published a story with the headline Saudis Agree to Provide Syrian Rebels With Mobile Anti-aircraft Missiles.
According to the report, “rebel leaders say they met with US and Saudi intelligence agents, among others, in Jordan on Jan. 30 (...) That is when wealthy Gulf States offered the more sophisticated weapons (anti-aircraft missiles).”
Writing about increased co-ordinated support to the Syrian rebels provided by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov recently noted the Saudi king told allies “the US would not stand in the way.”
And in June 2013 the Los Angeles Times noted that arms shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to Syrian rebels were “provided with assent from the US.”
Public denials at odds with covert actions are, of course, meat and potatoes when it comes to outsourcing foreign policy to regional proxies. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” the US-supported Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh told US General David Petraeus in January 2010 about US drone strikes in his country.
According to the Washington Post, a similar deception has long been in effect between the US and Pakistan, with the Pakistani government publicly condemning US drone strikes, while at the same time secretly co-operating with the US.
And of course, if the US really felt as its Middle East allies as they publicly claim to, a simple way to pressure them to stop supporting jihadis in Syria would be for the US to threaten to stop selling its allies arms.
In reality, the US continues to arm countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia despite — or perhaps because of — their support for the Syrian insurgency. In March 2015 the Stockholm Peace Research Institute noted that the Gulf Co-operation Council states and Turkey are “scheduled to receive further large order of major arms in the coming years” — mainly from the US and Europe.
It’s certainly possible I’m not reading the evidence correctly. I may be taking it out of context. There may well be good reasons why the media has chosen not to cover the story, and I could well have lost my mind. But what if the reports point to a far more frightening conclusion — that it is the Western media and political elite is mad and delusional?
Ian Sinclair is the author of The March That Shook Blair: An Oral History of February 15 2003, published by Peace News Press. He tweets from @IanJSinclair.