Alleged assassination of terrorist leader took place in area protected by U.S.
By S.T. Patrick
As American militarists continue to rejoice in the killing of self-proclaimed ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, they are forced to reckon with the strategy they, themselves, used to create a safe haven for al Qaeda and ISIS in Idlib, the northwestern Syrian province where Baghdadi was protected and then killed.
There are moral, ethical, and strategic conundrums the American military faces in Syria, a majority of which are caused by the dense logic and passion toward interventionism that keeps them there today.
Idlib is a Syrian war zone located, metaphorically, somewhere between Hell and Detroit. While it is as dangerous as any region in the world, the American military has held a shaky control over the Idlib province and its 165,000 people.
On the one hand, American regime-change supporters have been very attentive toward Idlib. It is the last, powerful bastion of Syrian opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. On the other hand, it is the home of the largest conglomeration of al Qaeda fighters in the world. Syria’s largest al Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, controls the province on the ground and in the minds of its residents, while the Americans control it from the sky, from the borders, from the defense contractors, from CIA headquarters, and, if you believe the narrative streaming out of Washington, D.C., from a technologically advanced situation room in the White House.
The State Department and the Pentagon are not hiding the fact that they are actively supporting the largest global collection of al Qaeda fighters. In fact, they are admitting what would, to many, be a great post-9/11 hypocrisy, while furthermore bragging about its size. In June, Deputy Secretary for the Middle East Michael P. Mulroy said, “Idlib is essentially the largest collection of al Qaeda affiliates in the world right now.” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that there are between 20,000-30,000 fighters in Idlib.
Al Qaeda makes up a majority of those being armed by the American military on the ground. The other large faction had been called the “Free Syria Army.” The American people were propagandized to believe these were average Syriansturned- rebels, horrified by the brutality of Assad and inspired by the American support to pick up arms in defense of their homeland. In October, the truth reared an even uglier head than the ongoing Civil War.
When President Donald Trump recently decided to accept a Turkish invasion of Syria, the world discovered the identities of the “moderate rebels.” “All it took for the curtain to be pulled back was for President Donald Trump to greenlight a Turkish invasion of Syria,” Dan Cohen of news website “The Grayzone” wrote. “Those once-‘moderate’ CIA-trained contras who had long terrorized civilians in Syrian government territory were revealed to be Turkish-backed mercenaries, slaughtering and beheading their way throughout the Kurdish-majority regions of northeastern Syria.”
Not only are the Americans fighting in Syria alongside those al Qaeda forces whom they continue firing upon in Afghanistan and Iraq today, but they have now unleashed their mercenary Turkish allies on the Kurds, whom the George H.W. Bush administration had instructed us were the sympathetic Iraqis during Operation Desert Storm.
Syria has been a complex story to follow—part of what has made many Americans tune out—but to understand what has happened, one needs to just remember the axiom, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In deciding that Assad is public enemy number one in Syria, the Americans have turned the largest region they still control into a jihadist haven for al Qaeda fighters and Turkish mercenaries willing to fight against Assad. In doing so, they created a safe zone for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.
Almost instantly after the killing of al-Baghdadi was publicized, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) criticized Trump for “supporting al Qaeda” by prioritizing the defense of Idlib. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), whose campaign is now on life support, attacked Gabbard for being an “apologist for an individual, Assad, who has murdered people in his country like cockroaches.” Gabbard’s comments, however, are supported by Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter [ISIS], who said in July 2017 that “Idlib province is the largest al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.”
The Middle East think tanks and Washington journalistic set feigned surprise and astonishment that al-Baghdadi had been hiding in Idlib. The morning the assassination of al-Baghdadi was announced, in that moment of analytical insanity, Max Abrahms of Northeastern University provided one of the few sane analyses of the situation.
“The think tank crowd gets an ‘F’ for ISIS and Syria analysis,” Abrahms said. “These same pundits who got the main points about ISIS and Syria so obviously wrong are now shocked that Baghdadi was hiding in Idlib, the opposition stronghold. This is because they have been arguing since day one that ISIS is not part of the opposition to Assad, but rather his ally. And they have been trying to minimize the portion of the opposition seen as extreme . . . . For those of us who understood that ISIS and Assad are not friends and that the rebels have been al Qaeda-tainted for some time, it’s no surprise that the ISIS leader would set up shop in the heart of the opposition, where al Qaeda and friends are the dominant groups.”
Why did al-Baghdadi go to Idlib, a place defended by American weaponry and CIA-trained fighters? It was the perfect place for him to recruit jihadists and build the caliphate. Why did the Americans kill one of the major organizers of the Assad opposition? Because Trump may have, once again, shot himself in the foot. He chose the short-term, Obama-like “Death of Osama bin Laden” campaign season victory parade (situation-room shock photo included) over the narrative that had been built since the April 2017 missile strike on the Shayrat airbase. In doing so, the narrative of the regime-changers, and thus the Pentagon and the CIA, has been thoroughly exposed.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.