Is the US in cahoots with IS? – TTG


In short, no. IS is clearly losing cohesion and any IS or allied groups not closely tied to the central leadership are beginning to despair of the fight. I think YPG/SDF units may be able to bypass some of these deflated jihadis without much of a fight. Local jihadis may also be open to local truces with the local SDF Arab tribes. I would think the US and its allied forces would be happy to avoid these fights rather than aggressively seek combat. CJTF-OIR may also be watching the success of the Russian reconciliation program in turning former enemy fighters into allies and seek to do the same east of the Euphrates. 

Yesterday Al Masdar News published an enlightening story where an “ISIS fighter admits that ISIS is forbidden to attack Kurdish forces in Deir Ezzor.”


"BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:50 P.M.) – A video has just been released on social media showing the interview of an ISIS fighter from Deir Ezzor who admits that the terrorist group’s forces in the region are forbidden by their commanders from attacking US-backed, Kurdish-led militias.

The interviewee, Mohammed Moussa al-Shawwakh, says that his group, tasked with defending the area around the Conoco Gas Fields, was ordered to allow Kurdish forces to enter the strategic site. The order, he says, came from a top regional emir (leader) called Abu Zaid.

The ISIS fighter’s confession goes on to mention that Kurdish-led forces were also allowed to enter other gas and oil fields in the region in order to make propaganda videos.

Mohammed finishes the interview by saying that he knows for a fact that the US is attempting to establish an alliance between Kurdish forces and ISIS in Deir Ezzor province in order to undermine government-led military efforts to liberate the region."


Well, this would certainly explain the ease of the YPG/SDF advance to Deir Ezzor and the lack of combat. Some will see this as proof of US-IS collusion. I see it as evidence supporting my earlier thoughts of the CJTF-OIR seeing the wisdom of neutralizing the enemy through negotiations rather than eliminating them through combat. It is evidence of IS weakness rather than US perfidy. 

Remember all that talk about the Russians and Assad being allied with IS because they were busy slamming all those other jihadis, including our unicorn army, rather than exclusively targeting IS? Many also were, and still are, in high dungeon about the whole Russian sponsored de-escalation zone effort. We were most recently mightily upset that the R+6 and Lebanon would allow a few busloads of IS jihadis and their families to leave their positions along the Syrian-Lebanese border enroute to Deir Ezzor. In my opinion, all these de-escalation efforts have put the R+6 in a far better position of neutralizing the jihadi threat in Idlib now than it was in immediately after the liberation of Aleppo. Perhaps the CJTF-OIR has realized what the R+6 discovered long ago. As Churchill said, “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.” Even as a tactic of war, it makes sense in this region.

What is more troubling is that we don’t know what the USG and CJTF-OIR plans to do once IS is neutralized on both sides of the Euphrates. CENTCOM is a damnably arrogant command which has long sought to maintain a sizable and influential footprint in the region. Why?


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76 Responses to Is the US in cahoots with IS? – TTG

  1. mike says:

    Mohammed Moussa al-Shawwakh is saying whatever the Mukhbarat wants him to say. But I am sure there will be many commenters here who will believe his “confession” to be the final proof they are looking for. Sadly.
    CENTCOM arrogant? Maybe. They do have a lot on their plate:
    Why you ask? Seems to me that is their charter from the National Command Authorities, and not from General Votel.

  2. Christian Chuba says:

    Great post TTG. Both the SDF and SAA have made evacuation arrangements to spare civilians or to gain military advantage and both sides have made something that resembles reconciliation / de-escalation agreements but the SAA and Russians have been better at it.
    Between the U.S./SDF vs the Syrian / Russians, I’d say that we have grandstanded much more about it when the SAA have done this because we are always in Information War mode. I wish we wouldn’t, poisoning the waters doesn’t do any good and can eventually bite us but it sure makes us feel good and gives Nikki lots to rant about.
    There must be tiers of ISIS members, a top tier of Baghdadi types who are ‘irredeemable’ and a bottom tier who are just as comfortable being part of any number of groups. I don’t think we should get on our high horse about it if someone local decides that it’s a good idea to let some of them scat but then again we once thought that Baghdadi was one of the more harmless ones. No one has invented a Takfiri gauge yet.

  3. Jack says:

    TTG, Sir
    I watched Ken Burn’s Vietnam War documentary. IMO, an important aspect of the documentary was perspective.
    Regime change in Syria was an Obama/Hillary project aided and abetted by Ambassador Ford, the French, Germans and British and of course the prime manipulators Bibi, Erdogan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies.
    Brennan and CENTCOM were in hog heaven. No idea if they directly aided the jihadis both AQ & IS. But clearly indirectly and in a big way. Then Putin intervened. I recall Obama trolling him saying this would be another Afghanistan quagmire for Russia. Well, it seems like R+6, have the winning hand and Assad may survive and Syria will face the long road to reconstruction as a mostly secular state.
    The big winners from a strategic sense are Russia, Iran and Hezbollah who earned whatever that victory means in blood. Maybe some decades from now the next Ken Burns will come along and give us a documentary of our sordid role in creating chaos and anarchy in the Middle East beginning with regime change in Iraq on the basis of false pretenses.

  4. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The starting point was US creation of Israel.

  5. J says:

    Speaking of the Kurds, appears Kurd nationalism is bringing together Iran/Iraq/Turkey in a joint op to squash Kurd independence.

  6. PeterAU says:

    The US mey have turned one or more tribal groups within ISIS. The problem I see is there is no frontline between pro US ISIS and anti US ISIS. Some groups for whatever reason now friendly to both US and their current or former collegues in ISIS?

  7. mike says:

    Babak Makkinejad –
    I am for Ahmadinejad’s suggestion. Create an Israeli State carved out of land in Germany and Austria.
    But Balfour was British, not American. And the US State Department was against the Balfour declaration. The US held out and did not endorse it for five years until directed to do so by Congress, which at that time was overrun by bible thumpers.
    30 years later, the United Nations voted for the Partition of Palestine. The British were withdrawing and glad to get rid of that tarbaby. Russia was among the two thirds of the UN that voted for it. The only countries, other than Mid Eastern, that voted against it other were India, Greece and Cuba. Good on those three for standing up against it. If the UN had to do it over again it would be a completely different vote outcome.

  8. jjc says:

    The focus for SDF was removing ISIS from Raqqa, then suddenly it became a race to the Euphrates and the oil fields. The Kurdish militias have moved far outside their traditional territory. So it’s hard not to see this as a land and resources grab, facilitated by a cooperative ISIS (who still attack SAA).

  9. mike says:

    Babak Makkinejad –
    PS – Third time within a year that an Israeli Armored vehicle has flipped over.
    If true it does not say much for IDF mountain warfare skills. If it keeps up, then Hezbollah won’t need all those Iranian TOW missiles.

  10. jpb says:

    These observations are sourced from ‘Russia’s Stand-Off Capability: The 800 Pound Gorilla in Syria-Andrei Martyanov’.
    Russia’s long range cruise missile capability was demonstrated from Iranian and Iraqi airspace immediately after the death of Russian General Valery Asapov and two colonels in Deir Ezzor.
    The article changes my understanding of the context of operations in the Syrian War and the wisdom of further USA involvement in the area on behalf of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
    I pray the danger of escalation based on the delusion of USA and IDF military superiority in the area is dispelled before we our faced with a catastrophic military defeat.

  11. Matthew says:

    mike: That is a good summary.
    AIPAC has “snuck up on history” and Congress’s current obedience is a result of AIPAC crushing internal dissent, not a natural result of “shared values” or a long-term strategy of the State Department.

  12. Harry says:

    Did the US create Isreal?

  13. Dubhaltach says:

    TTG taking what j said above @ 27 September 2017 at 10:51 PM a bit further every time I think about Kurdish independence I look at a map. The thing that leaps out at me every time is all those head waters. I find it very difficult to believe that Turkey, Iran, and whatever remains of Iraq are going to allow the Kurds to have control of the most vital asset of all. All the oil in the world is no use to you if you don’t have potable water.

  14. LeaNder says:

    Mohammed finishes the interview by saying that he knows for a fact that the US is attempting to establish an alliance between Kurdish forces and ISIS in Deir Ezzor province in order to undermine government-led military efforts to liberate the region.
    I could imagine that Russia and its partners in war wonder about what drives the Iraqi Kurds to have an election on independence right now? …
    Elijah J. M.

  15. JJackson says:

    The poorly thought out neocon dream of destuction of a Shia cresent is showning every sign of developing into something beyond their worst nightmares. When the dust settles they may well be faced by a new Warsaw pact of the feared Shia cresent plus the defection of Turkey and Qatar. The new Hizb re-armed and retrained by the Russians – quite possibly with defacto control of Lebanon. At this point the Golan would seem vunerable and should it go Jordan may well begin to wonder if a realignment may not also be in its best interests. What then Judea and Sumeria?
    As to TTG’s why? My guess would be that the incoherent multi-faceted US FP still has significant elements that have not given up hope of a ‘friendly’ entity in east Syria. Trump may have given up on Syrian regieme change but I am not sure everyone else has and these delusional dreamers may still hope this can be used as a springboard from which to undo all that has occured since the start of the second Iraq war.

  16. plantman says:

    What can we expect from the Russian-backed coalition now that the SDF has seized some of the oil fields in Euphrates River Valley?
    What I’d really like to know is how TTG or Colonel Lang would approach the situation.
    Would it be better to launch and attack on the SDF now before they get dug in or tell them they must evacuate or there will be trouble or wait for final negotiations (if there are any?)
    Assuming that Assad MUST have the oil receipts for rebuilding the country, he has to rout the SDF and recapture the fields.
    It doesn’t seem to me that the SAA has any other option except to attack.
    Am I wrong?????

  17. LeaNder says:

    thanks mike,
    I agree that Ahmadinejad had some good points, unfortunately the overall ‘feel and touch’ was heavily off from a communicative point of view. Irony alert: What part of Germany and Austria would be on your mind? But yes, considering the ME I can understand the idea. Tyrol/Adige popped up here once in family history:
    Considering how far back the earliest document here in Cologne referring to the Jewish community goes, maybe it should be the region of the Jekke, the Rhinelands? Wouldn’t that be the best place? Unfortunately hard to cut out regions in Austria from here on down South.
    But semi-irony apart:
    One of the most interesting voices on Mondoweiss once led me to read the diplomatic papers on matters in a US online archive. That was pretty interesting.

  18. FkDahl says:

    Did the driver fall asleep? Those things tend to happen.

  19. plantman,
    There is no need for the R+6 to open up an offensive against the YPG/SDF. That would be an unnecessary distraction, especially at this time. They should concentrate on defeating IS, HTS and the rest of the jihadis along the Euphrates south of Deir Ezzor, in Idlib and around Damascus. They should continue to normalize ties with Jordan and Turkey and keep discussions open with the Rojava Kurds. In time the US will be the odd man out and will be pressured to leave. In my opinion the Rojava Kurds would be smart to listen to Assad and keep their distance from Barzani. It would be far better for them in the long run if they did so.

  20. jjc,
    ISIS isn’t being cooperative. They’re falling apart as a conventional military force. The same thing happened on the western side of the Euphrates between DeZ and Raqqa. The IS melted away in the face of SAA attacks. We’ll see what happens south of DeZ along both sides of the Euphrates.

  21. The Porkchop Express says:

    TTG – I think you struck a very important distinction: the issue of connivance vs. arrogance when it comes to US/assorted jihadis in Syria and around the region.

  22. PeterAU,
    Maps can be deceiving. Neat frontlines don’t exist over wide parts of the battlefield and many groups are just tiring of the fight preferring to hunker down and avoid the fighting altogether.

  23. Jack,
    I’d also like to see Ken Burns or someone like him tackle the US involvement in Lebanon in the early 80s as an in depth documentary.

  24. Willybilly says:

    Archives aplenty ……..

  25. Willybilly says:

    TPE & TTG, Thre are definitely connivance and arrogance galore… and YES the US, NATO and the Izzies are in cahoots with ISIS and ALL its cousins, sisters and brothers in arms from day one. But plausible deniability requires all the acrobatics and various posturing we have seen over the years, in a veiled but failing attempts at denying the obvious…

  26. Charles Michael says:

    That is exactly my understanding of the situation.
    From the start of the insurgency Bachar Al Hassad has been rather benevolent with the Kurds.
    Surely with victory in sight he will not start speeling Kurds blood.
    Most westerners seems unable to consider a long game, true it is nerve raking; but all quick fix imposed by brutal force have proved very temporary.

  27. Red Cloud says:

    Mohammed Moussa al-Shawwakh’s comments don’t contradict any accepted facts, and just as TTG pointed out – his statements are in line with the evidence of what actually happened.
    So from an objective standpoint there is more reason to believe what he is saying than to not.
    Yet right on que, you were the first comment to quickly dismiss everything the man said.

  28. The Porkchop Express says:

    There is no way the US is actively, directly in cahoots with Daesh, HTS/al Qaeda, or any other salifiyye. The Israelis, maybe. Saudis most assuredly.
    The distinction about arrogance, if I understand TTG correctly, is more that the brainiacs in DC and CENTCOM making policy think they are such world class game players that they can or will have control over the situation. Because they are so astute and on top of things, the pieces will move because they want them to.
    That doesn’t mean the US is in bed with any of them.

  29. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    For whatever it’s worth, PKK, PYG, KRG etc. are completely infiltrated by Mossad at this time and must dance to the izzie tune. IMO the kurds are too deeply in to extricate themselves gracefully. Governments might make nice w/each other but the tribes surrounding the kurds will not forget kurdish perfidy that easily.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    A joint US-Jordanian force could have destroyed ISIS in Syria in its early days. Wonder why that was never attempted, I guess helping the Party of Ali was a big No-No.

  31. VietnamVet says:

    Thanks again for keeping us up-to-date. This is invaluable.
    Policies that ignore American citizens and enrich polluters and war profiteers are reaching a point of implosion. The chickens are coming home to roost.
    Either the Shiite Crescent is accepted with Iran as a regional leader in an alliance with Russia or a world war is about to break out to form Kurdistan to cut the landline in half. Tens of thousands of American soldiers and contractors are in Syria and Iraq. As Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico point out; projected catastrophes do happen. Don’t develop quagmires.

  32. Kooshy says:

    Not many important head waters from Kurdistan regions empty in Iranian plateau. Most Iranian head waters come from central zagross range

  33. mike says:

    There are some signs of Damascus relaxing their attitude against the Kurds in northern Syria. The Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem, told Russia Today News that some form of autonomy may be possible. Is he sincere – or just trying to head off an independence referendum in Syria like what happened in northern Iraq?
    The Kurds with their Syriac-Assyrian/Arab/Turkmen allies in the Democratic Northern Syria Federation have “answered Syrian Foreign Minister’s remarks on ‘negotiations’, saying that they are ready for talks.” They say Moualem’s statement is welcome and a positive step. They put it in writing.
    My thinking is that Russian pressure on Damascus has made this possible. The Kurds have been so far shut out of Geneva and Astana. So this possible thawing of relations is a good sign. Russia has also suggested that Afrin may be the next ‘de-escalation’ area. About time I say.
    Negotiations will be tough. Damascus will hold out for control of oil and gas assets in the north – plus the lion’s share of electricity distribution from Tishrin and Tabqa dams that are under SDF control. The Kurds (and their allies) will hold out for the right to elect their own local officials instead of carpetbaggers from Damascus. They will want the right to participate in legitimate political parties other than the Ba’ath Party. Plus they may want justice for the PYD Party officials who were tortured and died while imprisoned by the Mukhbarat in the past. That last won’t happen IMO, no way the regime is going to give up the men of its security apparatus to trial. In any case it will take a lot of good faith and compromising on both sides to make it work. Tough road ahead.

  34. LeaNder says:

    Army Times reported on a new Baghdadi audio that surfaced. I know, I know reminiscent of the curious OBL videos. But thankfully this time all that is needed is voice recognition. Wonder how good they are in that field by now. 😉
    In the message, Baghdadi told his supporters that ISIS remains steadfast as America grows weary in the conflict, according to analysis by Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute located in Washington D.C.
    Townsend, thought he was still alive and kicking in the Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV) Syria/Iraq; MT, August 31:
    Slightly more elaborated via the NYT, same date:
    “We’re planning for tough fights ahead,” General Townsend said.
    The Syrian Democratic Forces, which are backed by the United States, are largely led by Syrian Kurds who may not be immediately acceptable to the local Arab populations. The Syrian Kurds provide most of the essential command-and-control for the overall fighting force, half of which is Arab.
    But as they move into the Euphrates River Valley, the Syrian forces now are expected to recruit additional local Arabs as well other Arab fighters who have been trained by American and allied forces at al-Tanf, a desert outpost in southern Syria near the intersection of the Jordanian and Iraqi borders.
    The Arab fighters from al-Tanf are vetted and supported with small arms, navigation tools and medical supplies. American and other allied advisers also provide basic combat training skills, including first aid, marksmanship and techniques on how to clear a house of militants.

    They also report that an agreement between Russia and the US that the SAA stay on the Western side hadn’t been reached at that date.

  35. Linda says:

    Afghanistan will be another choice

  36. Willybilly,
    While the USG thought it was clever enough to allow IS to attempt to topple the Assad government, it did not deliberately create and direct IS to do so. If that was the USG policy, we would not have bombed the crap out of IS around Kobane when the Rojava Kurds were about to be wiped out? We supported those Kurds in their successful campaign against IS since then.
    We still seem hell bent on pursuing an “Assad must go” policy, but we did not deliberately support IS. We just stupidly let IS rampage across Iraq and Syria when we thought we could gain from that. As part of that stupid and destructive policy, we let the Saudis and Turks directly support IS. Now all those “moderate jihadis” who freely supported Al Qaeda and IS were our direct fault. Of course we weren’t alone in that idiocy, either.

  37. mike says:

    james –
    I do not believe Assad ever worked with Daesh. Some claim otherwise. I have not suggested that. His security services did release some jihadis from prison who became Daesh leaders, just like al-Baghdadi was released from imprisonment in Iraq. Many Syrians claim it was deliberate on Assad’s part. I have not suggested that. Stupidity? Incompetence? Yes to both IMO, and that includes both the USA and the Syrian regime.
    The real father of Daesh is Bush Junior and his invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Iraqi prime Minister Maliki. But to give them the benefit of the doubt, that was probably arrogance and ignorance on their part and not a deliberately evil intention.
    PS – Why do you call this death cult by their preferred name of ‘ISIS’? By using that term you legitimize their argument that they are a state, in other words a country like Syria or Belgium or the US or any country in the United Nations. They are the Daesh, a word they despise, a word which they have flogged people for using and threaten to cut out the tongue of those who use the word. Do not legitimize these monsters. They are not a state.

  38. mike says:

    FkDahl –
    How often does something like that happen? Does three in 11 months seem within bounds to you? I have no experience in an armored unit, so will defer. But I wonder if those Merkavas are top heavy? Where is their CofG?

  39. jld says:

    If that was the USG policy, we would not have bombed the crap out of IS around Kobane when the Rojava Kurds were about to be wiped out?

    That argument doesn’t hold because it suppose some USG rationality but there is plenty of evidence that the USG does engage in stupid/contradictory/incoherent/schizophrenic behavior.
    Hey, careful, you might destroy the so convenient excuse “It’s only stupidity not malevolence”!

  40. JJackson says:

    Personally I do not believe that. I think they were happy to sit back and watch Assad and IS weaken each other with a view to picking up the pieces later. In addition their poor understading of the flows of knowledge, arms and personel between all the Jihadis led them to aid groups they thought ‘friendly’ only to find they were then fighting them once they morphed into something else. At root the problem is the difference between reality and ‘US reality’ as understood inside the beltway bubble and various tendrils of USgov.

  41. TTG – Thank you for another great summary. In addition to that, I believe that the second paragraph of your reply to “Willybilly” is the most accurate summary possible of the issue of claimed Western support for IS. We “let” ISIS run. We did not deliberately “create and direct” it.
    Who’s “We?”. As the Syrian conflict becomes more and more solely a US/Russia affair, as far as the participants outside the ME are concerned, the final sentence of that second paragraph points to something else that needs clarifying about the “stupid and destructive policy” that led to the Syrian debacle: European and Israeli input into the policy and into the implementation of that policy.
    The Israeli input into both policy and implementation gets sufficient attention, sometimes even in the media. The European input not so much, though I believe it was significant. Of the British component of that input on the ground we in the general public – that is, we in the general public who might have a rough idea of where Syria is on the map – know little except for what we hear of some dubious sounding intelligence/PR work and the odd reference to Special Forces. Even less of the French and German component.
    Given the disinformation and spin that surrounds the subject arriving at a view of Western intervention in the ME that is at once informed and balanced isn’t easy. This is the only site that does it. At present we’re waiting to see whether Syria succeeds in recovering its territory, whether it goes into a “frozen conflict” condition, or whether it ends up with a Kosovo scenario. As said, the Israeli influence on that outcome is recognised. European influence on the outcome and on arriving at it will also be a factor. Are there any indications of how that influence is exerted at present?
    There is also the question of Chinese interests in Syria and whether that will lead to the Chinese seeking to exert influence on the outcome.
    Such questions seem at present to have little direct bearing on the military position you are examining. They must, however, be in the minds of whoever in Washington is making the military decisions.

  42. LeaNder says:

    That’s a nice and comfortable formula, case closed let’s move on?
    Are you going to be both prosecutor and judge? Also executor of your own verdict? And what exactly would that be concerning the US?
    to not dwell too long on masoud.

  43. Laguerre says:

    “There are some signs of Damascus relaxing their attitude against the Kurds in northern Syria.”
    This is a quite inexact reading of the situation. The Rojavan Kurds have always been negotiating with Damascus, because of course they recognize that they will have to make a deal with Asad when the war is over. It’s just the US that wants outright war. The evidence of course is the survival of the Syrian army base in Qamishli (or is it Hassekeh?). There was one attack upon it, but it was never renewed, and they’re still there. I’ve always presumed that the attack was under US pressure, and now the Kurdish leadership has thought again, and doesn’t want to go there now.

  44. Harry says:

    This is exactly to conclusion i came to. Its gratifying to me that someone well briefed on the situation agrees.

  45. semiconscious says:

    ‘We still seem hell bent on pursuing an “Assad must go” policy, but we did not deliberately support IS. We just stupidly let IS rampage across Iraq and Syria when we thought we could gain from that…’
    i believe the accepted term for describing this type of behavior is ‘enabling’ 🙂 …

  46. mike says:

    Press brief yesterday morning by the CJTF-OIR spokesman, Colonel Ryan Dillon.
    Coalition airstrikes killed a network of three Daesh drone developers in and near Mayadin. (That indicates agents or sources (moles?) on the ground in Mayadin that are providing intel on Daesh leadership and constituents. It appears Colonel Lang was correct in his previous comment on that subject.)
    Other key points that Dillon mentioned:
    More than 44000 sq kilometers liberated from Daesh in Syria by CJTF supported CJTF. (That is more than 24% of Syrian landmass in my estimation.)
    Two million Syrians no longer under the control of ISIS thanks to CJTF supported SDF.
    “Singular mission of the coalition joint task force is the annihilation of ISIS.”

  47. ISL says:

    Thanks for the link:
    From the article:
    “It was discovered where the leaders would hold a meeting…”
    If true, this would suggest that ISIS is now leaking perhaps as individuals try and buy their post ISIS survival.
    I do not recall such reports claimed a year or so ago.

  48. EO,
    On the British role in Syria, an invaluable resource is the material collected in the pages entitled ‘Talk: British involvement in Syria’, on the ‘A Closer Look On Syria’ site.
    (See .)
    This has a lot of material on the activities of Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, whom I discussed briefly in my post on the British role in the Ghouta ‘false flag’ and the subsequent cover-up, back in April.
    (See .)
    Among other subjects covered is the role of James Le Mesurier in the ‘White Helmets’, and of Paul Tilley in ‘InCoStrat.’
    One interesting feature is that the British seemed to have carved out a ‘niche’ in ‘StratCom’. So, for example, a sometime colleague of mine, Mark Laity, who when I had dealings with him was BBC Radio Defence Correspondent, is now ‘Chief Strategic Communication’ at SHAPE.
    In this capacity, he produces presentations with titles like ‘Perception becomes Reality’, and ‘Behavioural approaches to Perception management.’
    (See , )
    What I find fascinating – and depressing – is that former British Army officers – like Tilley, Le Mesurier, and de Bretton-Gordon – seem to have swallowed this kind of nonsense hook, line and sinker.
    They do not seem to realise a central problem with propaganda – that, very often, the easiest person to fool is oneself.
    This may also be relevant to a central issue raised by British involvement in Syria, as also in other places.
    All one can find here are indications and pointers. But it seems likely that, behind the scenes, arguments about the dangers of ‘blowback’ involved in the assumption that we could collaborate with the Saudis and other ‘Gulfies’ in using jihadists against those deemed common enemies have been going on for a long time.
    It is of interest that a figure who has traced the history of this ‘devil’s bargain’ very incisively – Alastair Crooke – is a former employee of MI6.
    (See .)
    There is enough of the old Tory cynic in me to think that it is commonly a very major mistake to apply the twenty-twenty vision of hindsight. There are a lot of matters where ‘it seemed a good idea at the time’ is an appropriate maxim.
    However, the evidence is fairly clear that the kind of people who run MI6 have been remarkably resistant to the accumulating evidence that Sunni jihadists have been, as it were, devils with whom we have supped without a long enough spoon.
    So, for example, as late as July 2014 the former head of the organisation, Sir Richard Dearlove, was still attempting to convince others – and probably himself – that we didn’t have to worry too much about the ‘Islamic State’, because their central objective was to butcher Shia.
    (See .)
    To see the extent to which the leadership of MI6 still don’t ‘get it’ – and cannot grasp how the assumptions that have shaped the organisation’s activities for decades have little relevance to today’s world – one has only to read the first public speech of its current head, Sir Alex Younger, given last December.
    From the section on Syria:
    ‘Because beyond any of our capabilities, it is legitimacy that is the strongest weapon against international terrorism. If you doubt the link between legitimacy and effective counter-terrorism, then – albeit negatively – the unfolding tragedy in Syria will, I fear, provide proof. I believe the Russian conduct in Syria, allied with that of Asad’s discredited regime, will, if they do not change course, provide a tragic example of the perils of forfeiting legitimacy. In defining as a terrorist anyone who opposes a brutal government, they alienate precisely that group that has to be on side if the extremists are to be defeated. Meanwhile, in Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heart-breaking.’
    (See .)
    The man is, quite patently, both a gibbering idiot and a very unpleasant kind of sentimentalist. And, commonly, sentimentalists are precisely those people who are capable of the most wicked actions.
    But the MSM, in Britain and the United States, continue to behave like the characters in the Hans Christian Andersen fable – they cannot face the fact that ‘the Emperor has no clothes’, and they have been among those who have been praising the beauty of his suits all the time.
    How this situation has developed is a very interesting question.

  49. Pat,
    EO’s comment seemed to need a reply, but once again it has been put into spam.
    The lawsuits provoked by the dossier are getting odder and odder. The lawyers for BuzzFeed are now trying to compel key figures in the American ‘intelligence community’ to produce some kind of testimony. This is, ironically, a situation familiar in wars — where there are clearly escalatory dynamics, which are hard to predict.
    I have been tied up with other things, but hope to produce something sensible about what is going on at some point.

  50. FkDahl says:

    ISIS is the Tasmanian Devil, full of chaos and destruction, and the US has no direct control over it – but it appears the growth of ISIS was useful for certain US foreign policy goals.
    Why European leaders went along with this and thus greatly facilitated the growth of combat experienced salafist terrorists in Europe is yet another example how – to put it frankly – stupid and short sighted (Western) European leaders are. Playing ball with the hegemon gives you a nice sinecure as a cushy post-politics job is the best explanation I can think of.
    US foreign policy is another topic – my mental image is of a bunch of kittens in a bag. When all the kittens are moving in different directions the bag won’t move but sometimes three kittens are moving in one direction and the bag will move. I label the kittens Gas&Oil, AIPIAC+neocons, CIA and banking….

  51. Barish says:

    “Well, this would certainly explain the ease of the YPG/SDF advance to Deir Ezzor and the lack of combat. Some will see this as proof of US-IS collusion. I see it as evidence supporting my earlier thoughts of the CJTF-OIR seeing the wisdom of neutralizing the enemy through negotiations rather than eliminating them through combat. It is evidence of IS weakness rather than US perfidy.”
    Be that as it may, ISIL central’s choice of where to throw what remains of their dedicated crack troops does grow suspect. Just last night, ISIL staged a broad assault ranging from T3-station to Ash-Shula:
    Which, as stated in the article, has been reversed by now – not without losses, but the upper chain-of-command of the jihadis could not possibly expect to make any lasting gains here, could they? The situation is not the same as a couple years ago when the SAA couldn’t deploy sufficient reserves to meet such attacks.
    The centre of this series of attacks was likely somewhere in this area (point just chosen for convenience):
    Driving ISIL out of here would probably be a good call to prevent any further such raids on the Palmyra-Dair as-Sur main road. Is the reason why this wasn’t done already the fact that it’s higher ground?

  52. mike says:

    Laguerre –
    You are correct that the Kurdish PYD have for a long time been in discussions with the Syrian regime – or at least elements of the regime. And cooperating with them too. You case in point about Qamislo is but one example. The Kurds in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo City cooperated with and helped the SAA to break the siege there.
    It was al-Hasakah where the Kurds and regime forces clashed. But that was due to attacks on Kurds by elements of the regime backed NDF militia. There are still regime police and other elements in Hasakah. There was also a minor skirmish in Qamislo about a year and a half ago when NDF militia opened fire on a Kurdish Asayish police patrol.
    But this latest thaw (if it is one) is critical as it follows the two to three week long agitprop blitz out of Baghdad and Moscow about the SDF and the US.
    I’m not sure what to make of the Syrian FM. He also said this back in May of this year: “I think that what the Syrian Kurds are doing in fighting Daesh is legitimate in the framework of their keenness on preserving the unity and integrity of Syrian territories.” He thought that the Kurds were helping to preserve Syrian unity.
    Does Moualem speak for Assad? Maybe. Or not. But some Kurds claim that Assad had a Kurdish grampa. Or maybe it was a great grampa?

  53. Serge says:

    Serious reports that T3 has fallen to IS and more points near sukhnah. And, get this, chatter in both sides of IS storming QARYATAYN.
    IS named this offensive yesterday, something they rarely do, after Adnani. IS is claiming 200 SAA dead since yesterday. They released a video of an ambushed bus with 2 dozen uniformed troops dead inside. That’s one incident alone

  54. Laguerre says:

    “But that was due to attacks on Kurds by elements of the regime backed NDF militia.”
    Ha ha. You expect me to believe that? If the Kurds wanted the Syrian base gone, it would have been gone long ago.

  55. Laguerre says:

    The basic point about ISIS is the remark of I think it was Bandar bin Sultan who said, ‘ISIS is a Saudi thing, the Muslim Brotherhood is Qatar.’ Evidently since then Saudi has been obliged to disavow its support. But, you know, the islamic tradition is for private support of jihad objectives, thus no problem for the saudi princes to continue to support ISIS out of their private pocket, which is the same thing as the public pocket. There are endless public sermons in favour of ISIS in Saudi.
    I don’t know how much the US is involved in all this, but I guess they’ve figured it out. Stick with Saudi and you stick with jihadism.

  56. Barish says:

    “Serious reports” by whom, exactly? Checking for T3 on twitter, I am only coming up with the usual ISIL-cheering cranks.
    As for the mentioned chatter about Qaryatayn, it rather appears to be sleeper cells – possibly from the mountain-range east of it, which until earlier this year was with ISIL? – at work – and failing at that:

  57. mike says:

    Laguerre –
    You are correct in saying: “If the Kurds wanted the Syrian base gone, it would have been gone long ago.” The facts that they did not should bolster the case that these were primarily local pissing-contest firefights between the Kurds and local/hostile militias. There are probably lots of he-saids and she-saids as to who fired the first shots in these skirmishes. The Kurdish police claim they were fired on at NDF checkpoints. I have not seen any counterclaims from the NDF.

  58. mike says:

    Primarily inghimasi hit and run attacks. And some sleeper cells.

  59. Red Cloud says:

    Qaryatayn is fine, there were some sleeper cells but they were dealt with.
    The Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway has been fully restored. T3 and Suknah are still fully under SAA control.
    The R+6 was prepared for this one. They dropped the ball on spotting the attack ahead of time IMO, but all gains were quickly reversed.

  60. turcopolier says:

    Red Cloud
    A serious attempt to cut the DeZ-Palmyra LOC was very predictable. pl

  61. Lurker says:

    ISIS=Saudi; Al Nusra=Turkey & SDF=IDF with Saudi & IDF collaboration. Thus, ISIS melts away and voilà: SDF takes over

  62. JJackson says:

    Long ago, somewhere in these threads, I posted a link to a Small Wars Journal post by a British officer sent to the US DoS to add British input into the Iraq war post kinetic recunstruction phase. From memory the gist was this. The planning was going quite well originally but as the offensive drew near DoD got on a roll and began to take over the show at which point they looked at the DoS plan and junked it as being overly pessamistic as in their view the victorious allies would be welcomed as much loved liberators and post Saddam Iraq would nautrally morph into some kind of democratic ally.

  63. James – pathetic all right but I have some reservations:-
    You write- “all our political class here do is follow what the USA does..”
    Is this the case with Canada and Australia? It’s usually assumed, maybe simplistically, that the Ukrainian/Eastern European diaspora in those countries keeps the politicians there committed to neocon foreign policy anyway. At the more extreme end of the spectrum you sometimes see on the internet assertions that both the Ukrainians and the Israelis are holding the fort for white civilisation. Whether that’s some nutter sounding off on a blog or whether it represents the underlying attitude of some of the Mr and Mrs Averages in that diaspora is difficult to tell from this distance.
    In any case I believe the view that neocon is just something the cronies do is incorrect. In Eastern Europe, parts of Germany and France, and I think in Canada and Australia there is a genuine sub-stratum of popular support for neocon foreign policy. We merely have to look at the relaxed attitude some Germans take to their government giving the Neo-Nazis a hand in the Ukraine; and some of those Neo-Nazis are getting up to considerably more than just sounding off on a blog. With respect, I don’t think the Beltway is leading the charge in such aspects of neocon foreign policy. More shoulder to shoulder.
    More generally I’d suggest, very diffidently because the general public doesn’t get to see a lot of what’s happening, that sometimes in the various Western interventions abroad the tail has been wagging the dog pretty vigorously.
    That was my impression at times, both of the Clinton and Bush II years and of the Obama years. Still waiting to see what happens in the Trump years.

  64. kooshy says:

    Sir my apologies for the OT, related to the Iraqi Kurdistan. It sounds like the E.F. Hutton, in Iraq when Ayatollah Sistani speaks everybody listens. US DOS yesterday announced, the recent referendum in Kurdistan illegitimate.
    “After the Vote, Does the Kurdish Dream of Independence Have Chance?”

  65. David Habkkuk,
    These people you’re researching, particularly those in or on the fringes of the media – when you write more on them it will be instructive to see how you account for their being able to reconcile their activities with any sort of recognisable Service or institutional ethos.

  66. mike says:

    Those Daesh attempts on Qaratayn and the DeZ LOC were in response to al-Baghdadi’s latest audio tape. He urged jihadists to “fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner, and stand fast and courageous.”
    Same or similar happened in Iraq. Daesh tried a platoon sized attack on ISF in Ramadi. Results 40 Daesh killed, two or three captured.

  67. Laguerre says:

    It’s foolish to think the Saudis will ever support Kurds. They won’t. The Sunni Arab tribal element of SDF could be supported, as they’re Sunni Arabs. But, given that several tribal leaders have talked about fighting in order to end up rejoining Asad, I should think that support will be weak.
    It should not be forgotten that the Saudis were major motors of the revolt against Asad. Now they seem to have largely withdrawn.

  68. serge says:

    I can’t find any reference to that quote, and I highly doubt this statement of yours that there are endless publics sermons in favor of ISIS in saudi. Which much like Al qaeda in the 2000s has been heavily cracked down on since 2014, especially since the attacks in Mecca last year. Short and long term ISIS goals are diametrically opposed to that of the House of Saud. Any link between Saudi policies and rise of ISIS are epiphenomenal in nature relating to their meddling in Syria and continued international support for spread of wahabbism. I’ve said this on here many times and I’ll say it again, ISIS is and always has been since it was ISI under Zarqawi, an independent and sovereign entity beholden to no state actor in the region or otherwise

  69. Laguerre says:

    Let’s hope that the colonel or one of his authors are going to have something more serious to say about the Kurdish referendum, because it is potential sh*t for US policy. Being forced to take sides between Iraq and KRG will be bad for US policy in the Middle East. Equally holding neutral will also have negative effects. But it’s great for Israel, for whom doing down Arabs is a central element of their policy.

  70. Laguerre says:

    Yeah, I didn’t find the quote in a brief search. I’ll have another go later, and get back to you. I remember it well, some time ago. Not official policy, so not likely to be much repeated recently. It is in any case only a crystallisation of many statements, even official, that Saudi is supporting ISIS. Clinton for example.
    On the question of sermons, I watched a video (in Arabic) of the Imam of the Holy Sanctuary of Mecca speaking in favour of ISIS. The Imam of Mecca is not no-one in terms of influence. One can take it that others followed him.
    Of course, now all is changed. It’s no longer the flavour of the moment to support ISIS.
    You misunderstand Saudi Arabia. The official line is intended to satisfy the West, and doesn’t even represent what the princes think. What the princes of the royal family think, is mainly what happens, but even they are divided, some moderates, some extremists. After the princes comes the actual population who are not all Wahhabi, except in Najd.
    According to the old Islamic tradition, the defence of the faith is carried out by the generosity of private sponsorship. For example, in the 9th century, the mother of the Caliph al-Mutawwakil, Qabiha, funded a house of Jihadis in Tarsus to fight the Byzantines. Today is the descendant of that. Many examples in between.

  71. turcopolier says:

    Great idea! How about writing something about the Kurdish and Catalan independence movements. Send it to me and I may publish it. pl

  72. Sam Peralta says:

    Col. Lang
    Alastair Crooke has an interesting note you will likely have strong opinions on as you have such an intimate experience of the Middle East.
    He doesn’t believe the move by the Barzani clan will succeed.
    …the U.S.-Israeli Kurdish “project” seems – paradoxically – more likely forcefully to strengthen the nationalist impulse across the Levant, Turkey and Iran and to make it more assertive – but not in the old way: there is no going back to the status quo ante in Syria. The processes of de-escalation and reconciliation facilitated by Russia – in and of themselves – will change fundamentally the politics of Syria.

  73. Serge says:

    Qaryatayn is still under ISIS control as of today. Lots of locals saying that mass executions are going on. The pro-Syrian social media pundits were not to be trusted on this one as is often the case when setbacks occur.This is Iraq-tier style incompetence on the part of Syria IMO and doesn’t bode well for post IS insurgent future

  74. mike says:

    Colonel Valerii Fedyanin, who had been severely WIA near Deir ez-Zor, has passed away from his wounds. He had been medevacked to Russia just prior to his death. Fedyanin was Commander of the 61st Naval Infantry – the Kirkenesskaya Brigade. That unit was famous for its below zero amphibious landings 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle against Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe bases during October of 44 in Kirkenes Norway.

  75. Thomas says:

    “The basic point about ISIS is the remark of I think it was Bandar bin Sultan who said, ‘ISIS is a Saudi thing, the Muslim Brotherhood is Qatar.'”
    ISIS was a takeover of the local Al Qadea by Iraqis from Samarra (the ones that blew up the Golden Mosque) to change from ganster style jihadism to miltiary style. Their growth came when Bandar got blown up himself in the tit for tat assassination attacks with the Syrians and being true to his nature funded them in the desire for revenge.
    So in a sense Serge is right that they are not beholden to anyone, but as the Iraqi Kurds are painfully discovering, one sure needs friends or supporters to accomplish your overall goals.
    By the way in regard to your student’s father, the insurgent Amir, has he made a decision on reconciliation or exile yet?

  76. Lurker says:

    In all the signs of reconciliation between Assad and Kurds or between Assad and Syrian opposition (Astana) you can see the steering hand of Putin. But right behind him you can see Mr. Xi ready to pour billions of yuan for reconstruction and fresh investment. Putin and Xi want pacification for the success of the Belt & Road Initiative. It is a Win Win for everyone so why not give the Kurds autonomy? But first the forces of Chaos (foes of the legendary Maxwell Smart and the Super Agent 86 of the old TV series) and Destruction need to be defeated by War or Reconciliation.

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