The United States was aware of the potential rise of ISIS in 2012, and facilitated its creation, a declassified US government document shows. Despite its public rhetoric, the US encouraged the development of a ‘Salafist Principality’ in Syria as a counter to the Assad regime. Further evidence suggests, moreover, that the key aim of the United States is not to achieve the defeat of the Islamic State, but to ensure continued destabilisation of the region.
The information revealed by the document is of vital importance, as it is in direct contrast with the public message given by the Western powers from 2012 until now. Their claims that supplying moderate rebels with arms was the most likely way to achieve peace have now been shown to be false, and the declassified information makes it clear that this was not the aim of Western policy in any case. The document acknowledges that ‘the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria‘. In full possession of this information, Western policy makers attempted to persuade the public that arming the insurgents was both safe and the best course of action.
The document makes it clear that the Western countries, Gulf States and Turkey were supporting, from the beginning, an insurgency that they were fully aware was dominated by extremists and fundamentalists. This raises ‘vitally important questions of the West’s governments and media in their support of Syria’s rebellion’, says Charles Shoebridge, a former British counter-intelligence officer. The most damning line of the 2012 document is its declaration that: ‘There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria. This is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime’. When considered in conjunction with the admittance that the conflict was likely to spill over into Iraq, this is a devastating indictment on Western policy and its support for the rise of an Islamic State.
The extreme movements that dominated the opposition ‘could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria’, notes the document. While this proves US intelligence services to have been extraordinarily accurate in their predictions, the fact that the West armed and continues to arm the Syrian opposition belies their alleged hostility to the Islamic State.
Even since the rise to prominence of ISIS late last year, the US has not halted its supply of arms and weapons to the region. In 2013, ISIS leader Abu Atheer stated that the Islamic State were regularly buying anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry from their ‘brothers’ in the Free Syrian Army, which was seen as the most moderate of the opposition and was therefore receiving much of the arms sent from the West. These arms have subsequently fallen into the hands of ISIS, as have a great deal of the arms given to the Iraqi army who abandoned their weapons when fleeing from ISIS’ advances. Meanwhile, the Kurds, who have provided some of the strongest opposition to ISIS, are unable to even purchase Western arms due to US fears that an emboldened Kurdish militia could establish an independent Kurdistan, which would be contrary to American business interests.
ISIS is far from the threat that Western leaders want to depict it as. Their lack of meaningful opposition to the organisation demonstrates that. The threat of terrorism is being used to justify the erosion of civil liberties in the West. At the same time, Western and particularly American policy makers see the Islamic State as being their primary tool for achieving regime change in Syria, and are therefore disinclined to bring about its defeat.
Nowhere is this more apparent that in ISIS’ recent capture of the ancient Syrian desert town of Palmyra. To get to Palmyra, the Islamic State had to drive through miles and miles of open desert. Yet, despite apparently daily aerial bombardment by the US-led coalition, they were allowed to approach Palmyra unopposed. An anti-regime activist also alleged that Assad’s forces had abandoned the city without a fight. Meanwhile, the perception in Iraq following the fall of Ramadi is that the United States wants to see the country collapse, so that it might send in its own troops. Certainly, the coalition against ISIS has failed to halt the organisation in its tracks, and one wonders how long it will be before there are British and American boots on the ground if ISIS continues to expand.
Not only is Western policy responsible for creating the conditions for extremism and terrorism to grow and flourish in the Middle East as a result of its constant intervention in the region, it also actively promoted the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The US and Britain did not just invade Iraq, remove Saddam Hussein and set up a sectarian government, they poured arms and military equipment into an increasingly volatile and dangerous area, in full knowledge of the fact that this would enable terrorist organisations to thrive. As a result, we are all less safe, though the threat remains much smaller than the powers that be would have us believe.
The West is playing a perilous game of divide and rule in the Middle East. It is resulting in death, destruction, and an unpredictable future. All that is certain is further conflict as long as the West continues to meddle in a region it should have left alone long ago.
Defence Department Document released the report via a Freedom of Information lawsuit