Shockingly, evidence has recently been uncovered which links IS – this feared ‘rebel’ Jihadi group – to the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. This news is incredibly important, as it cuts through regime propaganda which states that the brutal conduct of the Syrian armed forces is necessary in order to ‘fight terrorism’. As it happens, the Syrian government is buying oil from IS-controlled terminals all across IS-conquered territory in Syria and Iraq, and in vast quantities. In addition, it appears as if the Assad regime not only deliberately released jihadists from government prisons but facilitated the creation of armed Salafist units at a time when the revolution was exclusively peaceful. In this manner, the Assad regime creates its own supposed enemies and hands itself a propaganda tool. (There is even the suggestion that Foley was actually captured by groups affiliated with Assad paramilitaries. How they got from Syrian Army air force bases to end up in desert prison cells currently defies explanation.)
After Syrian government airstrikes on IS positions in eastern Syria and Iraq, which were notable only for their cosmetic nature – government forces largely left IS alone in Aleppo, for example, where it is making its most rapid advances, at the expense of revolutionary forces – Assad began to reposition himself. Out went the rhetoric warning of American exceptionalism and invoking the unpopularity of the Iraq war. In came the talk of a common enemy.
From a government which, as Bente Scheller notes in her book The Wisdom of Syria’s Waiting Game: Foreign Policy Under the Assads, values its own survival above the survival of the nation it rules, such sentiments should be seen as they are: an exercise in winning allies as a means toward self-preservation – and nothing more. (She also goes on to detail the numerous instances in which the propaganda of the Assad regime was unreflective of the state of the nation at large. There are some fascinating revelations. If you have ever heard that Assad was a secular democrat, or that his regime protected minorities, or that he himself was a humble and modest man, reading this book will prove eye-opening.)
But the transparent political posturing at work here appears to have met with some success. Among the isolationist right – especially in the US, although the same is true in Britain as well – there is very little that will spur a move towards military action. Foreign affairs are so called for a reason, it is claimed. It is not ‘our place’ to interfere in the rest of the world – even when many thousands die and by some of the most horrific means imaginable. However, there is one thing with which even the most parochial state senator will wish to go to war: Islamism, and the attendant prospect of terror.
Because Islamism, in its root word and in its 19th century theological origins, comes from Islam – a belief system that finds little sympathy among those same provincial politicians – it can be effectively used to prod those who are normally reticent when it comes to military action into endorsing the use of force. With the strength, and therefore the potential threat, of IS almost impossible to overstate (the new ‘Caliphate’ has financial assets exceeding $2 billion by some estimates) the Assad government has hit on a winning strategy. If the regime protests loudly enough about the beheadings and crucifixions in Mosul, outsiders, perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps out of morally flawed ‘enemy of my enemy’ triangulation, will forget the chemical war crimes in Damascus suburbs and the widespread use of internationally condemned brutality in Aleppo.
Here we can see a convergence of the two supposedly warring groups. The despotism of Assad is not at war with the theocratic fascism of IS – the two are in league. And not just that; this collaboration is undertaken against the genuine moderates of the Syrian opposition: the very people we ought to be supporting.
This extract is taken from the middle of James’s post which you can read in full here