at this point, i expect hersh to assist in the effort to obscure the central jewish thrust of the syria war, namely, to eliminate hezbollah

I think the main purpose is to paint Israel as basically friendly to Assad. If you recall, Israel has cultivated a studiously neutral image throughout. However, I believe they are the initiators and planners of all aggression in the mideast, with Pindostan basically obeying them whether it wants to or not. The Israelis are clever enough (and well enough positioned as moles) to force Pindostan to do what they want, at least in the long run. And they are patient. In their planning they avoid deadlines. Everything is determined in advance, but when exactly it will happen is not. The destruction of Hezbollah and consequently of Iran are still their goals, as they have been throughout – RB

Military to Military: Pindo intelligence sharing in the Syrian war
Seymour Hersh, LRB, Jan 2016

Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must leave office and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him has in recent years provoked quiet dissent and even overt opposition among some of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (henceforth, JCoS throughout – RB). Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria. Like Washington, they believe that ISIS must be stopped. The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment put together by the DIA and the JCoS, then led by Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and potentially to Syria’s takeover by Jihadis, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the JCoS told me that the document was an all-source appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies supposed vassals in Britain, Toad Hall and Qatar to ship guns and goods to be used for the overthrow of Assad from Libya via Turkey into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The adviser said:

(The document showed) that what was started as a covert Pindo programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the FSA was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey. Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact. The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through, therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCoS had with Obama’s policy.

The assessment was bleak. There was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and Pindostan was arming extremists. Lt-Gen M Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The Jihadis, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. Flynn told me:

If the Pindosi sheeple saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic. We understood ISIS’ long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of ISIS inside Syria. We got enormous pushback. I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.

The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have had a zero chance of success. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing Pindo intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Germany, Israel and Russia were in contact with the Syrian army, and able to exercise some influence over Assad’s decisions. It was through them that Pindosi intelligence would be shared. Each had its reasons for co-operating with Assad. Germany feared what might happen among its own population of six million Muslims if ISIS expanded. Israel was concerned with border security. Russia had an alliance of very long standing with Syria, and was worried by the threat to its only naval base on the Mediterranean, at Tartus. The former advisor said:

We weren’t intent on deviating from Obama’s stated policies. But sharing our assessments via the military-to-military relationships with other countries could prove productive. It was clear that Assad needed better tactical intelligence and operational advice. The JCoS concluded that if those needs were met, the overall fight against Islamist terrorism would be enhanced. Obama didn’t know, but Obama doesn’t know what the JCoS does in every circumstance, and that’s true of all presidents. Once the flow of Pindosi intelligence began, Germany, Israel and Russia started passing on information about the whereabouts and intent of radical Jihadi groups to the Syrian army. In return, Syria provided information about its own capabilities and intentions. There was no direct contact between Pindostan and the Syrian military. Instead, we provided the information, including long-range analyses on Syria’s future put together by contractors or one of our war colleges, and these countries could do with it what they chose, including sharing it with Assad. We were saying to the Germans and the others: “Here’s some information that’s pretty interesting and our interest is mutual.” End of conversation. The JCoS could conclude that something beneficial would arise from it, but it was a military to military thing, and not some sort of a sinister JCoS plot to go around Obama and support Assad. It was a lot cleverer than that. If Assad remains in power, it will not be because we did it. It’s because he was smart enough to use the intelligence and sound tactical advice we provided to others.

The public history of relations between Pindostan and Syria over the past few decades has been one of enmity. Assad condemned the 9/11 attacks, but opposed the Iraq War. Bush 43 repeatedly linked Syria to the three members of his ‘axis of evil,’ Iraq, Iran and North Korea, throughout his presidency. State Dept cables made public by WikiLeaks show that the Bush 43 administration tried to destabilise Syria and that these efforts continued into the Obama years. In Dec 2006, William Roebuck, then in charge of the Pindo embassy in Damascus, filed an analysis of the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the Assad government and listed methods ‘that will improve the likelihood’ of opportunities for destabilisation. He recommended that Washington work with Egypt and the Toads to increase sectarian tension and focus on publicising ‘Syrian efforts against extremist groups,’ dissident Kurds and radical Sunni factions, ‘in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback.’ The ‘isolation of Syria’ should be encouraged through Pindosi support of the National Salvation Front led by Abd’ul-Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice-president whose government-in-exile in Riyadh was sponsored by the Toads and the MBs. Another 2006 cable showed that the embassy had spent $5m financing dissidents who ran as independent candidates for the People’s Assembly. The payments were kept up even after it became clear that Syrian intelligence knew what was going on. A 2010 cable warned that funding for a London-based television network run by a Syrian opposition group would be viewed by the Syrian government ‘as a covert and hostile gesture toward the regime.’ But there is also a parallel history of shadowy co-operation between Syria and Pindostan during the same period. The two countries collaborated against AQ. A long-time consultant to the Pindo intelligence community (confusingly referred to as “the long-time consultant to JSOC,” near the end – RB) said that after 9/11:

Bashar was for years extremely helpful to us, while in my view we were churlish in return and clumsy in our use of the gold he gave us. That quiet co-operation continued among some elements, even after the decision to vilify him.

In 2002, Assad authorised Syrian intelligence to turn over hundreds of internal files on the activities of the MBs in Syria and Germany. Later that year, Syrian intelligence foiled an attack by AQ on the headquarters of the Pindo Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and Assad agreed to provide the CIA with the name of a vital AQ informant. In violation of this agreement, the CIA contacted the informant directly. He rejected the approach and broke off relations with his Syrian handlers. Assad also secretly turned over relatives of Saddam Hussein who had sought refuge in Syria, and like Pindostan’s allies supposed vassals in Jordan, Egypt, Thailand and elsewhere, tortured suspected terrorists for the CIA in a Damascus prison. It was this history of co-operation that made it seem possible in 2013 that Damascus would agree to the new indirect intelligence-sharing arrangement with Pindostan. The JCoS let it be known that in return Pindostan would require four things:

  1. Assad must restrain Hizbullah from attacking Israel;
  2. he must renew the stalled negotiations with Israel to reach a settlement on the Golan Heights;
  3. he must agree to accept Russian and other outside military advisers; and
  4. he must commit to holding open elections after the war with a wide range of factions included.

The JCoS adviser told me:

We had positive feedback from the Israelis, who were willing to entertain the idea, but they needed to know what the reaction would be from Iran and Syria. The Syrians told us that Assad would not make a decision unilaterally. He needed to have support from his military and Alawi allies. Assad’s worry was that Israel would say yes and then not uphold its end of the bargain.

A senior adviser to the Kremlin on Middle East affairs told me:

In late 2012, after suffering a series of battlefield setbacks and military defections, Assad approached Israel via a contact in Moscow and offered to reopen the talks on the Golan Heights. The Israelis rejected the offer. They said, “Assad is finished. He’s close to the end.” The Turks told Moscow the same thing.

By mid-2013, however, the Syrians believed the worst was behind them, and wanted assurances that the Pindosis and others were serious about their offers of help. In the early stages of the talks, the adviser said, the JCoS tried to establish what Assad needed as a sign of their good intentions. The answer was sent through one of Assad’s friends: ‘Bring him the head of Prince Bandar.’ The JCoS did not oblige. Bandar had served the Toads for decades in intelligence and national security affairs, and spent more than twenty years as ambassador in Washington. In recent years, he has been known as an advocate for Assad’s removal from office by any means. Reportedly in poor health, he resigned last year as director of the Toad National Security Council, but the Toads continue to be a major provider of funds to the Syrian opposition, estimated by Pindo intelligence last year at $700m.

In Jul 2013, the JCoS found a more direct way of demonstrating to Assad how serious they were about helping him. By then the CIA-sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition via Turkey had been underway for more than a year. It started sometime after Gaddafi’s death on Oct 20 2011. (Sibel Edmonds says supply from Turkey started May 2011 – RB) The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Dept acquiescence. On Sep 11 2012, Pindosi ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was killed, and WaPo reporters found copies of his schedule in the building’s ruins. It showed that on Sep 10 Stevens had met with the chief of the CIA’s annex operation. The next day, shortly before he died, he met a representative from al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company which the JCoS adviser said was known by the JCoS to be handling the weapons shipments. By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the Pindosi intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists, the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. The JCoS adviser said:

There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president. The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride. But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdoğan, and got them to ship the Jihadis in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War, and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”

The flow of Pindo intelligence to the Syrian army, and the downgrading of the quality of the arms being supplied to the rebels, came at a critical juncture. The Syrian army had suffered heavy losses in the spring of 2013 in fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist groups as it failed to hold the provincial capital of Raqqa. Sporadic Syrian army and airforce raids continued in the area for months with little success, until it was decided to withdraw from Raqqa and other hard-to-defend, lightly-populated areas in the north and west, and focus instead on consolidating the government’s hold on Damascus and the heavily-populated areas linking the capital to Latakia in the north-east. But as the army gained in strength with the JCoS support, so the Toads, Qatar and Turkey escalated their financing and arming of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, which by the end of 2013 had made enormous gains on both sides of the Syria/Iraq border. The remaining non-fundamentalist rebels found themselves fighting and losing pitched battles against the extremists. In Jan 2014, ISIS took complete control of Raqqa and the tribal areas around it from Nusra and established the city as its base. Assad still controlled 80% of the Syrian population, but he had lost a vast amount of territory. CIA efforts to train the moderate rebel forces were also failing badly. The JCoS adviser said:

The CIA’s training camp was in Jordan and was controlled by a Syrian tribal group.

There was a suspicion that some of those who signed up for training were actually Syrian army regulars minus their uniforms. This had happened before, at the height of the Iraqi war, when hundreds of Shia militia members showed up at Pindo training camps for new uniforms, weapons and a few days of training, and then disappeared into the desert. A separate training programme set up by the Pentagon in Turkey fared no better. The Pentagon acknowledged in September that only ‘four or five’ of its recruits were still battling ISIS. A few days later, 70 of them defected to Jabhat al-Nusra immediately after crossing the border into Syria. In Jan 2014, despairing at the lack of progress, DCI Brennan summoned Pindo and Sunni Arab intelligence chiefs from throughout the Middle East to a secret meeting in Washington, with the aim of persuading Saudi Arabia to stop supporting extremist fighters in Syria. The JCoS adviser said:

The Toads said they were happy to listen, so everyone sat around in Washington to hear Brennan tell them that they had to get on board with the so-called moderates. His message was that if everyone in the region stopped supporting Nusra and ISIS, their ammunition and weapons would dry up, and the moderates would win out. His message was ignored by the Toads. They went back home and increased their efforts with the extremists and asked us for more technical support. And we say OK, and so it turns out that we end up reinforcing the extremists.

But the Toads were far from the only problem. Pindo intelligence had accumulated intercept and human intelligence demonstrating that the Erdoğan government had been supporting Nusra for years, and was now doing the same for ISIS. (This is typical piece of disinfo, based on the pretense that western intelligence is slow and inept at finding out even the most obvious pieces of crucial foreign military intelligence promptly – RB). The JCoS adviser said:

We can handle the Toads. We can handle the MB. You can argue that the whole balance in the Middle East is based on a form of mutually assured destruction between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and Turkey can disrupt the balance, which is Erdoğan’s dream. We told him we wanted him to shut down the pipeline of foreign Jihadis flowing into Turkey. But he is dreaming big, of restoring the Ottoman Empire, and he did not realise the extent to which he could be successful in this.

One of the constants in Pindo affairs since the fall of the Soviet Union has been a military-to-military relationship with Russia. After 1991, Pindostan spent billions of dollars to help Russia secure its nuclear weapons complex, including a highly secret joint operation to remove weapons-grade uranium from unsecured storage depots in Kazakhstan. Joint programmes to monitor the security of weapons-grade materials continued for the next two decades. During the Pindosi war on Afghanistan, Russia provided overflight rights for Pindo cargo carriers and tankers, as well as access for the flow of weapons, ammunition, food and water the pindo war machine needed daily. Russia’s military provided intelligence on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts and helped Pindostan negotiate rights to use an airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The JCoS have been in communication with their Russian counterparts throughout the Syrian war, and the ties between the two militaries start at the top. In August, a few weeks before his retirement, Dempsey made a farewell visit to the headquarters of the Irish Defence Forces in Dublin and told his audience there that he had made a point while in office to keep in touch with the chief of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov. Dempsey said:

I’ve actually suggested to him that we not end our careers as we began them, as tank commanders in West and East Germany respectively.

When it comes to tackling ISIS, Russia and Pindostan have much to offer each other. Many in the ISIS leadership and rank and file fought for more than a decade against Russia in the two Chechen wars that began in 1994, and the Putin government is heavily invested in combating Islamist terrorism.The JCoS adviser said:

Russia knows the ISIS leadership and has insights into its operational techniques and much intelligence to share. In return, we’ve got excellent trainers with years of experience in training foreign fighters, experience that Russia does not have.

The adviser would not discuss what Pindo intelligence is also believed to have: an ability to obtain targeting data from sources within rebel militias, often by paying huge sums of cash. A former White House adviser on Russian affairs told me:

Before 9/11 Putin used to say to us: “We have the same nightmares about different places.” He was referring to his problems with the caliphate in Chechnya and our early issues with AQ. These days, after the Metrojet bombing over Sinai and the massacres in Paris and elsewhere, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we actually have the same nightmares about the same places.

Yet the Obama administration continues to condemn Russia for its support of Assad. A retired senior diplomat who served at the Pindo embassy in Moscow expressed sympathy for Obama’s dilemma as the leader of the Western coalition opposed to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. He said:

Ukraine is a serious issue, and Obama has been handling it firmly with sanctions. But our policy vis-à-vis Russia is too often unfocused. But it’s not about us in Syria. It’s about making sure Bashar does not lose. The reality is that Putin does not want to see the chaos in Syria spread to Jordan or Lebanon, as it has to Iraq, and he does not want to see Syria end up in the hands of ISIS. The most counter-productive thing Obama has done, and it has hurt our efforts to end the fighting a lot, was to say that Assad must go as a premise for negotiation.

He also echoed a view held by some in the Pentagon when he alluded to a collateral factor behind Russia’s decision to launch airstrikes in support of the Syrian army on Sep 30: Putin’s desire to prevent Assad from suffering the same fate as Gaddafi. He had been told that Putin had watched a video of Gaddafi’s savage death three times, a video that shows him being sodomised with a bayonet. The JCoS adviser also told me of a Pindo intelligence assessment which concluded that Putin had been appalled by Gaddafi’s fate:

Putin blamed himself for letting Gaddafi go, for not playing a strong role behind the scenes. Putin believed that unless he got engaged, Bashar would suffer the same fate, mutilated, and he’d see the destruction of his allies in Syria.

In a speech on Nov 22, Obama declared that the principal targets of the Russian airstrikes had been the moderate opposition. It’s a line that the administration, along with most of the mainstream Pindo media, has rarely strayed from. The Russians insist that they are targeting all rebel groups that threaten Syria’s stability, including ISIS. The Kremlin adviser on the Middle East explained in an interview that the first round of Russian airstrikes was aimed at bolstering security around the Russian airbase in Latakia. The strategic goal, he said, has been to establish a Jihadi-free corridor from Damascus to Latakia and the Russian naval base at Tartus and then to shift the focus of bombing gradually to the south and east, with a greater concentration of bombing missions over ISIS-held territory. Russian strikes on ISIS targets in and near Raqqa were reported as early as the beginning of October. In November there were further strikes on ISIS positions near Palmyra and in Idlib province on the Turkish border. Russian incursions into Turkish airspace (sic – RB) began soon after Putin authorised the bombings, and the Russian airforce deployed electronic jamming systems that interfered with Turkish radar. The JCoS adviser said:

The message being sent to the Turkish airforce: “We’re going to fly our fighter planes where we want and when we want and jam your radar. Do not fuck with us.” Putin was letting the Turks know what they were up against.

Russia’s aggression (sic – RB) led to Turkish complaints and Russian denials, along with more aggressive border patrolling by the Turkish airforce. There were no significant incidents until Nov 24, when two Turkish F-16 fighters, apparently acting under more aggressive rules of engagement, shot down a Russian Su-24M that had crossed into Turkish airspace for no more than 17 seconds. In the days after the fighter was shot down, Obama expressed support for Erdoğan, and after they met in private on Dec 1, he told a press conference that his administration remained ‘very much committed to Turkey’s security and its sovereignty.’ He said:

As long as Russia remains allied to Assad, a lot of Russian resources are still going to be targeted at opposition groups that we support. So I don’t think we should be under any illusions that somehow Russia starts hitting only ISIS targets. That’s not happening now. It was never happening. It’s not going to be happening in the next several weeks.

The Kremlin adviser on the Middle East, like the JCoS and the DIA, dismisses the ‘moderates’ who have Obama’s support, seeing them as extremist Islamist groups that fight alongside Nusra and ISIS. Putin said in a speech on Oct 22:

There’s no need to play with words and split terrorists into moderate and not moderate.

The Pindo generals see them as exhausted militias that have been forced to make an accommodation with Nusra or ISIS in order to survive. At the end of 2014, Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German journalist who was allowed to spend ten days touring ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria, told CNN:

They are all laughing about the FSA. They don’t take them for serious. They say: “The best arms sellers we have are the FSA. If they get a good weapon, they sell it to us.” They didn’t take them for serious. They take for serious Assad. They take for serious, of course, the bombs. But they fear nothing, and FSA doesn’t play a role.

Putin’s bombing campaign provoked a series of anti-Russia articles in the Pindo press. On Oct 25, citing Obama administration officials, the NYT reported that Russian submarines and spy ships were ‘aggressively’ operating near the undersea cables that carry much of the world’s internet traffic, although as the article went on to acknowledge, there was ‘no evidence yet’ of any Russian attempt actually to interfere with that traffic. Ten days earlier, the NYT published a summary of Russian intrusions into its former Soviet satellite republics and described the Russian bombing in Syria as being ‘in some respects a return to the ambitious military moves of the Soviet past.’ The report did not note that the Assad administration had invited Russia to intervene, nor did it mention the Pindo bombing raids inside Syria that had been under way since the previous September without Syria’s approval. An October op-ed in the NYT by Michael McFaul, Obama’s ambassador to Russia between 2012 and 2014, declared that the Russian air campaign was attacking ‘everyone except ISIS.’ The anti-Russia stories did not abate after the Metrojet disaster, for which ISIS claimed credit. Few in the Pindosi government and media questioned why ISIS would target a Russian airliner, along with its 224 passengers and crew, if Moscow’s airforce was attacking only the Syrian ‘moderates.’ Meanwhile, economic sanctions are still in effect against Russia for what a large number of Pindosis consider Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine, as are Treasury Dept sanctions against Syria and against those Pindosis who do business there. The NYT in a report on sanctions in late November revived an old and groundless assertion, saying:

(The Treasury’s actions) emphasise an argument that the administration has increasingly been making about Mr Assad as it seeks to press Russia to abandon its backing for him: that although he professes to be at war with Islamist terrorists, he has a symbiotic relationship with ISIS that has allowed it to thrive while he has clung to power.

The four core elements of Obama’s Syria policy remain intact today:

  1. an insistence that Assad must go;
  2. that no anti-IS coalition with Russia is possible;
  3. that Turkey is a steadfast ally in the war against terrorism; and
  4. that there really are significant moderate opposition forces for Pindostan to support.

The Paris attacks on Nov 13 did not change the White House’s public stance, although many European leaders including Hollande advocated greater co-operation with Russia and agreed to co-ordinate more closely with its airforce. There was also talk of the need to be more flexible about the timing of Assad’s exit from power. On Nov 24, Hollande flew to Washington to discuss how France and Pindostan could collaborate more closely in the fight against ISIS. At a joint press conference at the White House, Obama said:

Russia’s strikes against the moderate opposition only bolster the Assad regime, whose brutality has helped to fuel the rise of Daesh.

Hollande didn’t go that far, but he said that the diplomatic process in Vienna would ‘lead to Assad’s departure, (as) a government of unity is required.’ The press conference failed to deal with the far more urgent impasse between the two men on the matter of Erdoğan. Obama defended Turkey’s right to defend its borders, but Hollande said it was ‘a matter of urgency’ for Turkey to take action against ISIS. The JCoS adviser told me that one of Hollande’s main goals in flying to Washington had been to try to persuade Obama to join the EU in a mutual declaration of war against ISIS. Obama said no. The Europeans had pointedly not gone to NATO for such a declaration. ‘Turkey is the problem,’ the JCoS adviser said. Assad, naturally, doesn’t accept that a group of foreign leaders should be deciding on his future. Imad Moustapha, now Syria’s ambassador to China, was dean of the IT faculty at the University of Damascus and a close aide of Assad when he was appointed in 2004 as the Syrian ambassador to Pindostan, a post he held for seven years. Moustapha is known still to be close to Assad, and can be trusted to reflect what he thinks. He told me:

For Assad to surrender power would mean capitulating to armed terrorist groups. Ministers in a national unity government such as is being proposed by the Europeans would be seen to be beholden to the foreign powers that appointed them. These powers could remind the new president that they could easily replace him, as they did before to the predecessor (cf Lebanon – RB). Assad owes it to his people. He cannot leave (just) because the historic enemies of Syria are demanding his departure.

Moustapha also brought up China, an ally of Assad that has allegedly committed more than $30b to postwar reconstruction in Syria. China, too, is worried about ISIS, Moustapha said:

China regards the Syrian crisis from three perspectives: international law and legitimacy, global strategic positioning, and the activities of Jihadi Uighurs from Xinjiang province in China’s far west. Xinjiang borders eight nations: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. In China’s view, Xinjiang serves as a funnel for terrorism around the world and within China. Many Uighur fighters now in Syria are known to be members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist organisation that seeks to establish an Islamist Uighur state in Xinjiang. The fact that they have been aided by Turkish intelligence to move from China into Syria through Turkey has caused a tremendous amount of tension between Chinese and Turkish intelligence. China is concerned that the Turkish role of supporting the Uighur fighters in Syria may be extended in the future to support Turkey’s agenda in Xinjiang. We are already providing the Chinese intelligence service with information regarding these terrorists and the routes they crossed from on travelling into Syria.

Moustapha’s concerns were echoed by a Washington foreign affairs analyst who has closely followed the passage of Jihadis through Turkey and into Syria. The analyst told me:

Erdoğan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport, while his government has been agitating in favour of their struggle in China. Uighur and Burmese Muslim terrorists who escape into Thailand somehow get Turkish passports and are then flown to Turkey for transit into Syria. There is also what amounts to another ratline funnelling Uighurs from China into Kazakhstan for eventual relay to Turkey, and then to ISIS territory in Syria. Estimates range from a few hundred to many thousands over the years. Pindo intelligence is not getting good information about these activities, because those insiders who are unhappy with the policy are not talking to them. It isn’t clear whether the officials responsible for Syrian policy in the State Dept and White House get it.

Jane’s Defence Weekly estimated in October that as many as 5,000 Uighurs have arrived in Turkey since 2013, with perhaps 2,000 moving on to Syria. Moustapha said:

I have information that up to 860 Uighur fighters are currently in Syria.

China’s growing concern about the Uighur problem and its link to Syria and ISIS have preoccupied Christina Lin, a scholar who dealt with Chinese issues a decade ago while serving in the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld. Lin told me:

I grew up in Taiwan and came to the Pentagon as a critic of China. I used to demonise the Chinese as ideologues, and they are not perfect. But over the years as I see them opening up and evolving, I have begun to change my perspective. I see China as a potential partner for various global challenges, especially in the Middle East. There are many places, Syria for one, where Pindostan and China must co-operate in regional security and counter-terrorism. A few weeks ago, China and India, which hate each other (even) more than China and Pindostan hate each other, conducted a series of joint counter-terrorism exercises. And today China and Russia both want to co-operate on terrorism issues with Pindostan. As China sees it, Uighur militants who have made their way to Syria are being trained by ISIS in survival techniques intended to aid them on covert return trips to the Chinese mainland for future terrorist attacks there.

Lin wrote in a paper published in September:

If Assad fails, Jihadi fighters from Russia’s Chechnya, China’s Xinjiang and India’s Kashmir will then turn their eyes towards the home front to continue Jihad, supported by a new and well-sourced Syrian operating base in the heart of the Middle East.

Dempsey and his colleagues on the JCoS kept their dissent out of bureaucratic channels and survived in office. General Flynn did not. Patrick Lang, a retired army colonel who served for nearly a decade as the chief Middle East civilian intelligence officer for the DIA, told me:

Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria. He thought truth was the best thing and they shoved him out. He wouldn’t shut up. My own problems went beyond Syria. I was shaking things up at the DIA, and not just moving deckchairs on the Titanic. It was radical reform. I felt that the civilian leadership did not want to hear the truth. I suffered for it, but I’m OK with that.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Flynn was blunt about Russia’s entry into the Syrian war, saying:

We have to work constructively with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there and to act militarily. They are there and this has dramatically changed the dynamic. So you can’t say Russia is bad and they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real.

Few Congress critturs share this view. One exception is Tulsi Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who as a major in the Army National Guard, served two tours in the Middle East. In an interview on CNN in October she said:

Pindostan and the CIA should stop this illegal and counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad, and should stay focused on fighting against the Islamic extremist groups.

The interviewer asked:

Does it not concern you that Assad’s regime has been brutal, killing at least 200,000 and maybe 300,000 of his own people?

Gabbard responded:

The things that are being said about Assad right now are the same that were said about Gaddafi, they are the same things that were said about Saddam Hussein by those who were advocating for Pindostan to overthrow those regimes. If it happens here in Syria, we will end up in a situation with far greater suffering, with far greater persecution of religious minorities and Christians in Syria, and our enemy will be far stronger.

The interviewer asked:

So what you are saying is that the Russian military involvement in the air and Iranian involvement on the ground, they are actually doing Pindostan a favour?

Gabbard replied:

They are working toward defeating our common enemy.

Gabbard later told me that many Congress critturs, Democrats and Republicans alike, have thanked her privately for speaking out. Gabbard said:

There are a lot of people in the general public, and even in the Congress, who need to have things clearly explained to them. But it’s hard when there’s so much deception about what is going on. The truth is not out.

It’s unusual for a politician to challenge her party’s foreign policy directly and on the record. For someone on the inside, with access to the most secret intelligence, speaking openly and critically can be a career-ender. Informed dissent can be transmitted by means of a trust relationship between a reporter and those on the inside, but it almost invariably includes no signature. The dissent exists, however. The long-time consultant to the JSOC (see above – RB) could not hide his contempt when I asked him for his view of Pindostan’s Syria policy. He said:

The solution in Syria is right before our nose. Our primary threat is ISIS, and all of us, Pindostan, Russia and China, need to work together. Bashar will remain in office, and after the country is stabilised there will be an election. There is no other option.

The military’s indirect pathway to Assad disappeared with Dempsey’s retirement in September. His replacement as chairman of the JCoS, Gen W Dunford, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, two months before assuming office:

If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to Pindostan, I’d have to point to Russia. If you look at their behaviour, it’s nothing short of alarming.

In October, as chairman, Dunford dismissed the Russian bombing efforts in Syria, telling the same committee that Russia ‘is not fighting’ ISIS. He added that Pindostan must ‘work with Turkish partners to secure the northern border of Syria’ and ‘do all we can to enable vetted Syrian opposition forces’ (ie the ‘moderates’) to fight the extremists. Obama now has a more compliant Pentagon. There will be no more indirect challenges from the military leadership to his policy of disdain for Assad and support for Erdoğan. Dempsey and his associates remain mystified by Obama’s continued public defence of Erdoğan, given the Pindo intelligence community’s strong case against him, and the evidence that Obama in private accepts that case. As I reported in the LRB of Apr 17 2014, the president told Erdoğan’s intelligence chief at a tense meeting at the White House:

We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.

The JCoS and the DIA were constantly telling Washington’s leadership of the Jihadi threat in Syria, and of Turkey’s support for it. The message was never listened to. Why not? (A question Hersh knows he can safely pose, because nobody is going to be so crude as to yell out, “Because of the Jews!” – RB)

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