By Owei Lakemfa
THE United States (US) like a country under bombardment, scrambled its National Security Adviser, John Bolton and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo into the air. Their flights are taking them through the Middle East primarily to reassure their allies that they are still committed to the fight against the Islamic State, ISIS, a Frankenstein monster they collectively reared and nurtured.
The moulding blocks of what was to become ISIS began after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the toppling of its secular government under Saddam Hussein. Saddam was from the minority Sunni group and his ouster not only put the majority Shiites in power but also alienated many Sunnis. When the old Iraqi army was disbanded and its leadership imprisoned, many Sunni officers were imprisoned.
They later provided the leadership of the al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) which fought the American invaders and the new Shiite government. They were led by Jordanian Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. When America killed Zarqawi in 2006, he was replaced by the Egyptian, Abu Ayyub al-Masri whose death in 2010 led to the rise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, current ISIS leader.
The AQI collaborated with its sister al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front. Its fortunes changed when there were anti-Assad demonstrations in Syria and the US decided on a regime change. AQI which had changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISS) crossed into Syria linking up with al-Nusra and getting its share of the arms that were being supplied by the US and its European and Middle East allies.
In 2012, the Director of the American Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, David Petraeus proposed a programme to train, arm and fund the rebels in Syria. President Barack Obama rejected it, but pressure mounted by King Abdullah II of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made him succumb. It was perhaps the most regrettable error of judgement his administration made. First, America was in no position to vet the over 3,000 rebels it decided to train to differentiate the so-called “moderates” from the al-Qaeda affiliates like the al-Nusra and the ISS which had added Syria to its name to become ISIS.
The then American Director of Defence Intelligence, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn said he and the leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff protested pointing out that Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qaeda were not only in control of the Syrian rebel forces but that they populated it. He said they also pointed out that there was a free flow of jihadists from various countries through the connivance of Turkey into Syria, but that the Obama administration ignored them and went about arming the rebels.
The training of the Syrian rebels which was primarily the training of ISIS and al-Nusra fighters, took place in Jordan. It was carried out by the CIA, the United States Defence Department, the Jordanian Armed Forces and its General Intelligence Directorate, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, the Qatar State Security and the Saudi Arabian Al Mukhbarat Al A’amah. The trainees were also provided arms and funds before being returned to Syria where most joined or rejoined the ISIS and al-Nusra.
Soon, ISIS became the most powerful force in Syria outside the Syrian military. With the weapons it had been given, and later, the American and Saudi weapons sold to it in the black market allegedly by the Jordanian intelligence agents, ISIS became strong enough to invade Iraq, taking towns and cities within a few weeks as the American-backed Iraqi troops fled, leaving more weapons for ISIS.
The European Union in a 2017 study revealed that weapons were pouring into ISIS including anti-tank weapons “…purchased by the United States that ended up in possession of the Islamic State within two months of leaving the factory.”
General Flynn who was to become the National Security Adviser under President Trump, argued that the Obama administration’s nurturing of ISIS was “a willful decision.” He said, ‘if the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic…We understood ISIS’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria…I felt that they (Obama and his government) did not want to hear the truth.”
General Flynn added that: ‘The (American) Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists.” He said in frustration, the Joint Chiefs decided to assist President Assad to win the Syrian war: “… by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.”
But Flynn did not tell the full story including the fact that over 40,000 foreign jihadists from 33 countries including France, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and Denmark, were able to join ISIS because of the connivance of the West and the pressure it exerted on Turkey to allow them free passage including through the airport and the Turkish borders. This may explain why these groups have generally not been tried after the fiasco in British courts.
In one case, the British had in October, 2014 arrested a Swede, Bherlin Gildo while transiting through Heathrow Airport, London. He was a well- known jihadist fighting in Syria and had posted on the web, his exploits including Syrians he had killed. The British charged him with terrorism but withdrew the case when he accused British intelligence of directly and indirectly funding the terrorist groups he was accused of supporting.
Moazzem Begg was from October 2014, detained for seven months by the British government before his arraignment in court for terrorism. He disclosed that in all the instances he travelled to fight for the terrorists in Syria, he briefed the British intelligence, M16 which also debriefed him on his return. Again, the British government hurriedly withdrew the case from court. Who knows, the infamous Briton from Manchester, Mohammed Emwazi alias Jihadi John notorious for beheading ISIS hostages including American journalists James Foley and Steven Scotloff, might have been known to British intelligence.
In 2014, then American President, Obama made a vow that if the Syrian government “crossed the red line” by using chemical weapons in the war, America would bomb the government out of existence. With benefit of hindsight, the Americans might have been looking for an excuse to handover Syria to terrorists as it did Libya. If the bombings had occurred, Syria might have been the first country run by an ISIS government.