What is the source of the ‘safe haven’ plans for Syria?

In the quest for information on the backgrounds of the formation of ISIS I already found many plausible explanations that made clear that the West (mainly the US, UK and Israel) and the conservative Gulf monarchies have an objective interest in this creation. 

However, I did not see an indication yet that made compellingly clear that ISIS, rather than an unexpected boon, was really a plan. Of course one must always be very careful with information on the internet (and then I don’t mean that is only serious once covered by the mainstream media—rather the opposite in fact). That is why I was happy to find a piece of Nafeez Ahmed (already of last May), on this topic. Nafeez was one of the most brilliant students I saw pass through Sussex, one who after having obtained a splendid doctorate, already has a series of important books to his credit.
Nafeez writes that ISIS was consciously created out of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq (AQI) to isolate Assad in Syria. In May, Judicial Watch through legal action obtained a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document on this topic, dated 12 August 2012 (the DIA is the main Pentagon intelligence service).

The authors of the document, which among others discusses weapons supplies from ‘liberated’ Libya to Syria, had the obvious intention to damage the reputation of Hilary Clinton. But most important for us today is that the DIA establishes that AQI supported the opposition against Assad from the start and that ISIS emerged out of that alliance.

The document points out (in 2012, when the narrative was still about a popular uprising against the Assad regime) that the West, the Gulf states and Turkey were supporting a ‘sectarian opposition’ against Assad. To provide that opposition with a launch pad it recommended to create ‘safe havens’ in Syria too, as happened in Beghazi in Libya; there a rival government could then be established. That would be the often mentioned buffer zone along the Turkisch border. Of course this has not yet materialized, because Turkey has other priorities, which is war with the Kurds, so that Erdogan may win the elections after all.

The document then argues (and again, this is 2012) that ‘there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.’ It then repeats how Syria under Assad provides strategic depth for the Shia powers, Iran and Iraq. The latter of course thanks to the masterful invasion of 2003, but let’s leave that for the moment.

A ‘principality’ (ISIS in the meantime) would give AQI the possibility to recapture its original bastions, Mosul and Ramadi. The document continues with the conclusion that formation of a ‘Salafist principality’ (ISIS) would be a positive development because it would give ‘a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy.’ (Already in 2008 a RAND Corporation report had indicated that stoking the fires of Shia-Sunni antagonism would make it possible to combat, jointly with the conservative Muslim monarchies, the dangers of democracy).

The DIA then ‘predicts’ that an ‘Islamic State [could be declared] through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of territory.’ But as indicated it would give an enormous boost to the struggle against Iraq.

The long cherished illusion of the ‘moderate opposition’ thus turns out to have been cut across by an American strategy a) to bring down Assad in Syria through a ‘Salafist principality’ of Sunni jihadists and the Gulf monarchies and Turkey supporting them—even if this would be at the detriment of the unity of Iraq.

To that end b) ‘safe havens’ (a no-fly zone) would have to be created, as in Libya, from which the ‘Salafist principality’ would be able to operate as a state.

It would all be wisdom in retrospect were it not that right now in the Netherlands, voices are heard to realise exactly these goals.

First the clumsy opinion piece of ‘peace organisation PAX’ to impose a no-fly zone over Syria en attack Assad now; and next, the proposal by the Christian Democrat leader, Sybrand Buma, to secure safe havens not only in Syria but also in Iraq and Libya. The conservative liberals of the VVD currently in the government have already given their consent (for Syria, that is).

At a moment like this it is useful to once again go through the historical record on these matters.

Kees van der Pijl

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