US air-strikes fueling growth of ISIS?

The Sept. 23 US air-strikes on the so-called "Khorasan Group" near Aleppo on Sept. 23 killed 50 al-Qaeda militants and eight civilians—including three children and a woman—according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Pentagon said the strikes on the Khorasan Group "were undertaken only by US assets," while strikes against ISIS elsewhere in Syria included warplanes from Arab coalition members. (Daily Star, Sept. 23) The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reports that ISIS has recruited more than 6,000 new fighters since the US air-strikes began. One of Washington's favored rebel factions, Harakat Hazm, part of the Free Syrian Army alliance and a recipient of US missiles, issued a statement on Twitter denouncing the "external intervention"—meaning the US-led bombing campaign—as "an attack on the revolution." The group is demanding "unconditional arming" of the Free Syrian Army as an alternative to the air raids. (LAT, Sept. 23; Haaretz, Sept. 19)

Meanwhile, the Damascus regime has signaled its approval of the strikes. Ali Haidar, Syrian minister for "national reconciliation" (sic), told Reuters: "As for the raids in Syria, I say that what has happened so far is proceeding in the right direction in terms of informing the Syrian government…" He added: "Notification of the Syrian government happened. Confirmation that they would not target Syrian military installations, and confirmation they would not target civilians happened." (Reuters, Sept. 24)

A senior Iranian official also told Reuters that the US informed Iran in advance of its intention to strike ISIS in Syria,m and assured Tehran that it would not target the forces of the Syrian regime. "Iran was concerned about Assad's position and his government being weakened in case of any action against IS in Syria and brought this issue up in meetings with Americans," the Iranian official said. "This issue was first discussed in Geneva and then was discussed thoroughly in New York where Iran was assured that Assad and his government will not be targeted in case of any military action against Daesh [ISIS] in Syria."

Asked about the assurance that Syrian government forces would not be targeted, an unnamed senior US State Department official told Reuters: "We communicated our intentions, but not specific timing or targets, to the Iranians. As we've said, we won't be coordinating military action with Iran. And of course we won't be sharing intelligence with Iran either." (World Bulletin, Turkey, Sept. 24)

  1. ‘Hey ISIS, you were bombed by a woman. Have a nice day.’

    That's the Facebook meme produced by none other than Fox News—a reference to Maj. Mariam al-Mansouri, the first woman to join the UAE's air force, and the Emirates' team leader in the US-led air-strikes against ISIS in Syria. So now it is the right wing that has become the champion of women against Islamic fundamentalist rule, while the "left" increasingly blocks with jihadism. Are we the only ones who feel like we're through the looking glass?

  2. Syrian rebels divided on air-strikes

    ABC News runs a report today noting that in several rebel-held towns in the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, protesters emerged from mosques after Friday prayers to denounce the strikes. "The Nusra Front came to help us when the whole world abandoned us," read one banner carried in the town of Maaret al-Numan, according to videos and photos of the protests posted online by activists. "America is shelling civilians and left the killer of civilians," read a banner, referring to Assad, carried by a boy in the town of Maaret Musreen. The above-named Khorasan Group is fighting within the ranks of the Nusra Front. The young man's banner is the clearest indication of how the betrayal of the Syrian rebels by the outside world allowed al-Qaeda to fill the vaccuum. 

    The FSA and its allied National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces are officially supporting the air-strikes—although not those on the Nusra Front. The PKK forces in Syria's Kurdish north have decried the cynicism of NATO's non-intervention, without explicitly calling for intervention.

    Human Rights Watch is meanwhile calling for an investigation into civilian deaths in "possible unlwaful US strikes" at the village of Kafr Deryan, Idlib. Nine non-combatants, including nine children and two women, were reportedly killed in air-strikes at the village on Sept. 23.

  3. Chelsea Manning betrays ISIS victims

    Chelsea Manning, problematic from the first, has now become truly insufferable. Her Sept. 16 piece in The Guardian, "How to make Isis fall on its own sword," says the group should be left to set up its own contained "failed 'state'" where over time its fire would "die out on its own." Algerian feminist Marieme Helie Lucas happily lambasts this hero of the "left" in Portside, asking: "Interesting. And who lives inside this 'self contained', 'clearly demarcated territory'? Ants, I guess ? Not humans, for sure, in Manning's views."

  4. Facebook revisionists still betraying Syria

    We've already noted the dishonest nature of Facebook propaganda, especially where the war in Syria is concered. There have already been cases of Syria victims being passed off as Gaza victims, and (maddeningly!) it has only been righties like Breitbart that have aggressively called it out. Now a new Facebook meme shows ruins left from Assad's bombardment of Syria, misidentifying them as ruins left from the US air-strikes. This kind of propaganda is egregiously deleterious to the general moral and intellectual climate. Will you guys please knock it off?

  5. Assad’s ‘media missionaries’

    A piece in the UAE's The Naitonal by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad further debunks the persistent conspiracy theory that the US is trying to destabilize Assad, noting: "The Syrian opposition, which western polemicists habitually describe as 'US-backed', received no warning of the attacks. The US State department said Assad did. The Free Syria Army (FSA) learnt of the attacks from the news." It also takes on the "media missionaries" that have portrayed the Syrian rebels in a worse light than the regime, especially calling out Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn. A breath of fresh air.

    Highlighting a simply delicious irony, the Linux Beach blog writes: "Now it must be becoming increasingly obvious, even to them (the 'anti-imperialists'), that by opposing the Syrian insurgency, the 'anti-imperialists' have been supporting the imperialist game all along." Well said, but we aren't so optimistic that the "anti-imperialists" (sic) are starting to get it…

  6. Against the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’

    Blogger Mahmoud E. on the Palestinian Reflections website notes (citing the BBC of Aug. 25) Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem's offer to help the US fight ISIS, and wonders (as we do) how the "anti-imperialist" left in the West ever become so confused. Mahmoud points out that the Assad dysnasty since the 1980s has pursued "neoliberal policies"—since 2005 under the guise of a "social-market economy" which has been "more market than social." There has been a rise of "informal housing"—meaning shanty-towns where the poor took refuge after being usurped of their homes by rent hikes and "gentrification." This was among the economic pressures that led to the uprising against the regime. Mahmoud also finds:

    The Assad regime has always been a servant of Imperialism and Zionism. "During the Lebanese Civil War Hafez-Al Assad and the Syrian Army led a war on Palestinian refugee camps which resulted in the deaths of many Palestinian civilians… Also we can't forget that the Syrian regime and its mukhabarat (intelligence services) worked with the CIA to torture on people on 'extraordinary rendition” like the case of the Syrian-Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was kidnapped, deported and sent to be tortured by the Syrian mukhabarat." (A case we have also noted.)

    The Assad regime is Anti-Communist. "Yes the Assad regime is Anti-Communist which is not surprising since the 1970 coup by Hafez Al-Assad was a right-opportunist and reactionary takeover against the Marxist and leftist Salah Jadid. The Regime has cracked down on many communist groups especially the Syrian Communist Action Party, a Maoist tendency [which] was heavily repressed in the 70's and 80's by the Syrian regime…"

    There are progressive forces in Syria. "The Syrian Communist Action Party is part of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change a front of left-wing parties and organizations who oppose the regime and seek to overthrow it. There is also the PYD…the Kurdish leftist Democratic Unity Party which has declared peoples war on the regime, taken control of Kurdish neighbourhoods in Aleppo and northern Syria or Western Kurdistan (Rojava) and built an autonomous self-governed region and has been fighting both the Assad regime and [ISIS]…. [T]he Syrian Revolutionary left Current established the People's Liberation Faction to commemorate the third anniversary of the Syrian revolution. Also these include the L.C.C (Local coordination committees), Left-wing and communist organizations like the Syrian leftist coalition and Syrian Communists. All these parties and organizations are Anti-Imperialist opposing U.S/Western Imperialism and the Arab Gulf states…and Iranian-Russian Imperialism in the country and are struggling against them." We have also noted these progressive elements in Syria's civil resistance.

    He ends by calling for An end of the Anti-Imperialism of Fools. "Comrades and friends, let's put an end to this Anti-Imperialism of fools and be principled to our ideals and not fall into supporting those who blindly back the fascist, social chauvinist and bourgeois nationalist Assad regime that is oppressing the Syrian masses, we have to unite and support the syrian people’s struggle and progressive forces of Syria against the Assad regime and Imperialism whether it is US/Western Imperialism, Russian imperialism or Iranian and Arab gulf countries interventions in Syria."

  7. Daesh: What’s in a name?

    We designate the "Islamic State" (sic) by the admittedly problematic acronym ISIS mostly because it is the most common usage, and we refuse to legitimize their hubristic claim to being the "Islamic State." But within the region, they are generally known as Daesh—a term they seem to hate even more than ISIS. An exploration of the term in UAE's The National sheds some light. The term derives from the Arabic acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiyah fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham—meaning the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or the Levant. (Sham can be translated as either Syria or the Levant; hence the ISIS/ISIL confusion.) But it seems the word daesh in Arabic also means "to tread underfoot, trample down, crush."