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30 August, 2014

The powers behind the Islamic State

An interview with the investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed at the RealNews network

Key parts

"... the origins of the group [ISIS] come from militant groups affiliated to al-Qaeda that are operating in Iraq and Syria. And that's where it gets murky, because, as we know, these groups were kind of engaged in all kinds of militant activity fighting the Assad regime. They were also active in responding to U.S. occupation after the 2003 invasion. So there's a mix of different actors involved. So in Iraq we had elements of even the Ba'ath party and ex-Saddam supporters who were actually--according to many reports, they were being recruited by these al-Qaeda militants."

"And what makes it more murky is how these groups really became as kind of virulent and kind of influential as they have, which is really the kind of--you know, you follow the money. And you follow the money, we're looking at the involvement of the Gulf states, which have really empowered these groups over time and increased their ability to operate. They've increased their arms, logistical trading. So we've had the Saudis engaged in funding these groups in Syria."

"And what makes it really more disturbing is, going deeper into that evidence of the role of the Saudis and the Qataris and Kuwait, which has been confirmed by various different sources, is really the way in which the U.S. and the U.K. have overseen that process. And that's something which isn't so much acknowledged in the mainstream, that actually Britain and the United States were involved in knowingly kind of facilitating the support to these groups, despite knowing their links to al-Qaeda calling back as early as 2009."

"that batch of files [obtained by WikiLeaks] contains some really interesting correspondence, including correspondence where some senior executives at Stratfor were describing meetings that they had had with senior Pentagon officials and senior U.S. army officials where those officials openly described how U.S. special forces and British special forces had been operating in Syria long before the kind of major, major civil unrest that kind of really broke out, and they had been operating in kind of supporting these groups. And it was very clearly stated by these officers at the time--and the emails are there, people can check them out, and I've written about them in some of my Guardian articles and some of my other articles elsewhere--that they quite explicitly said that this is about destabilizing the Assad regime from within. They had even explored the possibility of airstrikes on targets. But the favored policy was using these groups as a proxy force to destabilize Assad's regime."

"The United States has for long time wanted to ensure that it kind of sidelines Russia and Iran in all of these various pipeline projects. So when Iran signed this kind of memorandum with Assad, that was kind of considered like a major kind of strategic setback, and something kind of needed to be done. And apart from that, there were also many other--there was generally other kind of geopolitical issues apart from the fact that Russia has a military base there. There's also issues such as the role that Assad has played in relation to the Middle East conflict, the support that they've provided to Hamas, their relationship with the Iranians, and that whole general thing. So there's this general perception of Syria being this part of the so-called axis of evil in a way. You know. So the whole pipeline thing kind of accelerated that fear, I think, and made them want to do something."

"... and we even have State Department cables, also leaked by WikiLeaks, where literally we have State Department officials talking about how there is going to be civil unrest in Syria very soon, very likely, because of food prices and the strain on food due to these droughts and due to the effect on farmers."

"... when we look at the way in which we've been funding some of these groups, it's kind of ironic that we have the very same people now calling for boots on the ground, calling for a response, are the same people that have been very loud in their support for arming some of the most virulent of elements of these rebel groups."

"... if we look at some of the reports that we've had over the last few years of the plans for the region, there are certainly elements in the Pentagon of a neoconservative persuasion who have seen the rise of this kind of group in a way as a boon to reconfigure the Middle East."

"... one of the sources I looked at was a publicly available RAND report that was published a couple of years. It was commissioned by the U.S. army. And it was a kind of a thought piece. It was a policy briefing. It was looking at policy options for the United States in essentially reconfiguring the Middle East and exploring how to counter terrorism. But those policy options were pretty Machiavellian in some ways [...] there was a range of scenarios that were explored. One of them was divide-and-rule, openly talking about empowering Salafi jihadists to some extent in order to kind of weaken Iranian influence, openly talking about empowering, using the Gulf states, because they have access to the petroleum resources, so using them to kind of funnel support to these groups that would eventually create kind of like a vortex of intra-Muslim conflict that would get terrorists and extremists on different sides fighting each other, that would weaken all of them and allow U.S. interests and Israeli interests to kind of consolidate their own kind of security while these guys are fighting amongst themselves."

Full interview:

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