Friday, September 18

Part II, Every time U.S. uses Muslim forces as a tactical weapon it backfires

Part I

Part II
Bread for al Qaeda


I owe my knowledge of this story to an American named Tony Cartalucci who blogs at Land Destroyer, and whose reports have been featured in online publications such as the rabidly anti-globalization website Global Research. Though he terms himself a geopolitical researcher, he's part of a new class of reporter that makes skillful use of the huge amount of data on the internet to produce intelligence reports and analysis that in the 20th Century would have taken entire departments in a spy agency or a large team of reporters at a major press publication to put together. 

Nafeez Ahmed, a Briton whose forensic analysis of published data related to the killing of bin Laden, and which I quoted in Part I, is another representative of the class. Ahmed, however, at least regarding his research on specific terrorist events (9/11, 7/7), is more of a pure researcher in that he tends to leave the "why" to others.  Cartalucci, on the other hand, uses research and analysis as a form of protest. He has been horrified by the direction his government has taken in an era of unrestricted low-grade warfare, and his reports reflect an unrelieved criticism of the foreign relations/defense policies of the U.S. government. 

This can result in some rather unfair characterizations, such as referring dismissively to Liz Sly, the Beirut Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, as a "propagandist."

Yes, well, Liz has heard worse about herself and unless he wants to correct me, the closest Tony Cartalucci might have come to reporting in dangerous conditions is rush hour traffic in Bangkok. During her time as a journalist Liz has been stationed in places you couldn't pay me any amount of money to visit even for 15 minutes.

Thus, the limitation to internet-based research and analysis. There is no substitute for eyes on the ground, and things always look different out there on the ground.  And if not for Liz Sly and another courageous Westerner named Ruth Sherlock reporting from Aleppo for The Telegraph, Tony wouldn't have had the story of the Flour Caper to tell.

He thinks the story means a very deliberate conspiracy on the part of the American government to supply al Qaeda and its Jabhat al Nusra front with flour for bread making, which helped Syrians under bombardment stave off starvation -- the punch line being that the grateful Syrians assumed the flour was a gift from al Nusra.  

Maybe Tony's interpretation is correct, and I'm going to give it a full airing in this post. But the story could also represent the kind of situation that was satirized in a movie probably based on a Graham Greene novel, the titles and plots of which I forgot almost a half century ago. 

The scene I remember is a wharf at night in a Third World country that the Soviets and Americans were competing to win over. The Americans deposited food aid on the dock in crates stamped in English, "Gift from the American people."  No sooner did the sailors leave than Soviet agents crept up and stamped on the crates, "Gift from the Soviet people" in the Third World country's native language.

Which is to say that the tactic of trying to win hearts and minds didn't start with the War on Terror. However, the post-World War Two era of conflict is also a litany of the USA blowing wads of money on the most stupidly executed bright ideas to win over the natives. Invariably the enemy has to operate on a comparative shoestring budget and so has to be smart about turning the American largess to its advantage. 

Nothing's changed in that regard.  Last year The Fiscal Times presented a photo essay of the type of war materiel, mostly U.S. made, that Islamic State had captured from Iraq's military. The booty shows that IS now has a formidable arsenal, for which they're grateful -- even bestowing on one American weapon with the acronym TOW an Arabized name: al-towi.

So while Tony Cartalucci and Nafeez Ahmed and many others -- including reporters for mainstream Western publications -- have collected a small mountain of evidence that points to the United States and its allies in European and Sunni Muslim Arab governments using Muslim fighters for proxy war in Syria, the mountain could be named "Idiots R Us."  

From this point of view the argument becomes somewhat academic as to whether the Flour Caper was deliberately to aid al Qaeda in Syria. What is beyond argument is that the caper backfired. Some small idea of how much it backfired can be gained from today's headlines from Europe.  

(As to Germany's clever idea to transform Syrian refugees into productive German workers, Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye thinks someone in the Bundestag finally did a few back of the envelope calculations.)  


US Aid Falls into Al Qaeda's Hands in Syria by Design, Not Chance
By Tony Cartalucci
International Observatory for Gulf State Despotism (blog)
April 16, 2013

   Photo: Alessio Romenzi/The Telegraph

Huge amounts of US-provided flour smuggled into northern Syria have formed the foundation of Al Qaeda's public relations strategy, the Washington Post and London Telegraph reveal. Together with huge amounts of US-provided weapons, the aid is fueling Al Qaeda's continued operations and atrocities inside Syria.

Recently it was revealed that the US, UK, and France, through Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and other regional allies, have been funneling cash and thousands of tons of weapons into Syria - the vast majority of which have ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra.

The New York Times in their article titled, "Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid," admits that:

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.
The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.
While the West attempts to claim these weapons are being sent to "moderates," the US State Department itself admits that Al Qaeda is operating in every major city in Syria, carrying out hundreds of terrorist attacks, and is by far the most highly organized, most prominent militant front in the conflict. If the West via Saudi Arabia and Qatar is sending thousands of tons of weapons to "moderates," who is sending more weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra?

The obvious answer is there are no moderates, and the West has been intentionally arming Al Qaeda from the beginning. In fact, this is a documented conspiracy first revealed as early as 2007 by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article titled, "The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?" which stated specifically:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Now, further evidence that the summation of US aid has fallen into the hands of Al Qaeda in Syria, comes to us from Washington Post propagandist Liz Sly who reported in her article, "U.S. feeds Syrians, but secretly," that:
In the heart of rebel-held territory in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, a small group of intrepid Westerners is undertaking a mission of great stealth. Living anonymously in a small rural community, they travel daily in unmarked cars, braving airstrikes, shelling and the threat of kidnapping to deliver food and other aid to needy Syrians — all of it paid for by the U.S. government.
Sly then claims that most Syrians credit Al Qaeda's al-Nusra with providing the aid:
“America has done nothing for us. Nothing at all,” said Mohammed Fouad Waisi, 50, spitting out the words for emphasis in his small Aleppo grocery store, which adjoins a bakery where he buys bread every day.
The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States. But Waisi credited Jabhat al-Nusra  —  a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda — with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.
And while Sly attempts to spin the story as merely misdirected anger and ignorance on the part of Syrians receiving the aid, it is well documented that bakeries in terrorist-held territory are in fact manned by Al Qaeda militants. 

In fact, while Sly maintains that "security concerns" are [the reason] for America's opaque aid distribution operation, it appears more likely the US is attempting to insidiously obfuscate its use of humanitarian aid to help its militant proxies win "hearts and minds" amid a humanitarian catastrophe the West itself engineered and perpetuated intentionally.

The London Telegraph revealed in their February 2013 article, "Syria: how jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra is taking over Syria's revolution," that taking over bakeries was a key strategy used by Al Qaeda's al-Nusra front to "win over" the population:

Then, in the past weeks, Jabhat al-Nusra – which is outside the FSA – pushed other rebel groups out of the stores and established a system to distribute bread throughout rebel areas.

In a small office attached to a bakery in the Miesseh district of Aleppo, Abu Yayha studied a map pinned on the wall. Numbers were scrawled in pencil against streets.
“We counted the population of every street to assess the need for the area,” explained Mr  Yahya. “We provide 23,593 bags of bread every two days for this area. This is just in one district. We are calculating the population in other districts and doing the same there. 
“In shops the cost is now 125 Syrian pounds (£1.12) for one pack. Here we sell it at 50 Syrian pounds (45p) for two bags. We distribute some for free for those who cannot pay.”
The bakery works constantly. Inside, barrows filled with dough were heaved onto a conveyor belt that chopped it into round and flat segments, before pushing the dough into a giant oven. Workers packed the steaming flatbread in bags.
“I am from Jabhat al Nusra. All the managers of all the bakeries are,” said Abu Fattah, the manager. “This makes sure that nobody steals.”
In essence, Al Qaeda is taking over neighborhoods upon a mountain of US-provided flour, in bakeries overrun and held at the barrels of US-provided guns. Humanitarian aid is being used as a political weapon to carve out territory for the West's heavily armed proxies and extort cooperation from the subjugated people who find themselves inside Al Qaeda-occupied territory.


Now let's take a closer look at Liz Sly's report, which was datelined April 14, 2013:


Since the conflict began in 2011, the United States has contributed the largest share, 25 percent, of global aid to Syria. Despite promises of assistance, some nations have yet to follow through. Read related article.


So secretive is the [food aid] operation, however, that almost none of the Syrians who receive the help are aware of its American origins. Out of concern for the safety of the recipients and the delivery staff, who could be targeted by the government if their affiliation to the United States were known, the Obama administration and the aid workers have chosen not to advertise the assistance.

Meanwhile, as the death toll mounts and the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad shows no sign of giving up, anger about the perceived failure of the United States to help mounts steadily among Syrians who support the rebellion.


The unpublicized aid effort, which The Washington Post was invited to witness on the condition that it not identify the agency involved, the names or nationalities of its staff, or the precise locations in which the workers operate, illustrates the dilemma confronting the Obama administration as it cautiously explores ways of stepping up support for the Syrian opposition.

The United States is already providing a significant component of the humanitarian aid reaching Syria. It has contributed an overall total of $385 million, according to USAID officials. Overall, international donors have matched only a third of the funds promised, and the amount remains woefully insufficient to meet the spiraling needs of a war-ravaged country whose people are killed, injured and forced to flee their homes on a daily basis, U.N. officials say.

The U.N. mission, based in Damascus, faces difficulty accessing rebel-held areas of the country because of government-imposed restrictions and the dangers of crossing the front lines. To circumvent the shortfall, the United States has earmarked $90 million of its contribution for nongovernmental organizations to operate in rebel areas, making it the largest Western donor of aid to the parts of Syria that have slipped beyond government control.

Syrians “say they’re not getting any help, and it frustrates us because they are,” said a U.S. official involved in the aid effort who was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

Syrians who are aware of the American contributions in Aleppo say the discreet efforts of the U.S.-funded aid agency have made a difference in the areas it targets.

Flour purchased by the United States helps feed 210,000 people a day and has helped resolve the acute shortage of bread that threatened the province with famine last winter, aid workers said. Extra food rations have been distributed to more than 400,000 people, and 168,000 people sleep under U.S.-provided blankets, the aid workers said.

The United States also funds 144 field hospitals and clinics that treat injured Syrians across the country, and it provides 90 percent of all medical aid reaching rebel areas in one province where fighting has increased sharply in recent months, according to an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The United States is not the only country providing help to the province of Aleppo. Turkey has given by far the most aid overall. In addition, the French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) runs clinics there.

But among Western donors, “there is no doubt that America has taken the lead,” according to Wissam Tarif, who oversees the provision of aid for the Syrian Opposition Coalition. “And for the U.S., it shows courage to be pushing organizations to operate in this area.”

But because of security concerns, the United States can’t advertise its successes, undermining what has always been regarded as one of the goals of American aid: to win hearts and minds.

It is a battle the United States appears to be losing. On a two-day visit to the unnamed international agency’s projects in the province of Aleppo, it was clear that Syrians don’t know that the United States is helping them and that hostility toward the United States is deepening.

“America is our number one enemy,” fumed Ali Mahmoud al-Kak, 43, an unemployed taxi driver, as he bought bread at another of the Aleppo bakeries supplied entirely with flour paid for by the United States.

It is unclear whether raising awareness of U.S. aid contributions would make a difference. Syrians who support the opposition want weapons and a no-fly zone to deter government airstrikes more than they want food or medicine, said Abu Omar, who heads the relief committee in a provincial Aleppo town that receives American food aid. As the person responsible for distributing the food, he knows it comes from the United States, but the aid agency told him not to tell anyone.

“Yes, America helped us a lot with food. But we blame them because they are a great power,” Abu Omar said. “We are enduring airstrikes and shelling daily, and they have done nothing about it.”

Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra, which last week publicly confirmed its allegiance to al-Qaeda, is receiving much of the credit for the help Syrians are receiving. The road leading into the town where Abu Omar distributes American-bought food is lined with black banners advertising the militant organization’s presence. As the daily distribution of food got underway in one part of town, Jabhat al-Nusra was delivering water supplies in another.

At the site of the U.S.-funded distribution, men lined up to receive boxes of tuna, pasta, beans, rice and other items — rations intended to feed a family of seven for a month — said that they knew a foreign country was providing the help but that they did not know which one. One man suggested Britain or France, another Turkey. Most said Qatar was the most likely benefactor, or perhaps Saudi Arabia.

"We really don’t know, and nobody asks,” said Wasil Khaled, 31, an unemployed day laborer. Jabhat al-Nusra does not provide organized distributions on the scale of these regular food handouts, he said, “but if there is an emergency, they help. They are doing a very good job.”

That the United States is giving humanitarian aid to Syria is no secret. Although the issue of whether to provide military help to Syrian rebels is highly controversial, food and medical contributions have been mentioned repeatedly in U.S. statements on Syria.

Addressing a U.N. fundraising conference by video in Kuwait in January, President Obama made it clear that the origins of the aid would not be publicized.

“The relief we send doesn’t say ‘Made in America,’ ” he said.

The administration is looking at ways of branding the aid but has not figured out how to safely do so, said Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID.

“We know that if we put the aid workers in even greater danger, there is a possibility that we’ll have deaths among our aid workers,” she said.

The risks are evident. Three U.S.-funded clinics were hit by mortar fire last month, and one of the strikes killed 10 people, although there is no reason to believe they were targeted because of their U.S. affiliation, which has been kept quiet, American officials said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian government warplanes have deliberately targeted bakeries, mostly in Aleppo province but also in other areas, because they are places where civilians gather. None of the 50 U.S.-funded bakeries in Aleppo province have been hit.

But if one were, and if the U.S. link were known, the entire effort to feed people in the province would be jeopardized, said one of the program officers with the aid agency that supplies the bakeries.

“I’m not concerned about the image issue. I’m concerned about helping people, and I also want to go home to my wife,” the program officer said at the rented apartment where the aid workers live, without telling neighbors who they are.

At a school serving as housing for families forced to flee to one of the towns being helped by American aid, the depth of need is apparent. More than 200 people are crowded into classrooms, where they sleep on U.S.-provided mats, mattresses and blankets and are sustained almost entirely by the U.S. food baskets distributed by the agency.

There is no water, many children are sick, and everyone has a story of bereavement, horror and fear.

“Without this, we would be close to death,” said Amina al-Ibrahim, a grandmother, gesturing toward the box of food she had received the day before. She does not know who sent it. But, she said, “I would really like to know, so that I could tell them thank you.”

Liz Sly is the Post’s Beirut bureau chief. She has spent more than 15 years covering the Middle East, including the Iraq war. Other postings include Africa, China and Afghanistan.
From data cited in the report, the "unnamed international agency" might refer to one connected with the United Nations. But there are queer aspects to the food aid distribution that are only made evident in The Telegraph report by Ruth Sherlock, quoted in Tony Cartalucci's article, and which is datelined more than a month before Liz Sly's April 14, 2013 report for the Washington Post -- February 8, to be exact. 

Watch carefully, don't blink (emphasis mine):
Aleppo has been plunged into despair. Riven with war, life in Syria's most populous city has become a dog-eat-dog existence: a battle for survival in a place where the strong devour the weak.
Its luxuriant history is lost beneath uncollected litter on its pavements and streets. Feral children play beside buildings shattered by shelling and air strikes. There is no electricity, no heating; gunmen prowl the streets as night falls. Some are rebels searching for government loyalists; others are criminals looking to kidnap for ransom. Looting is rife.
It is here, behind the front lines of the war against Bashar al-Assad that a new struggle is emerging. It is a clash of ideologies: a competition where rebel brigades vie to determine the shape of post-Assad Syria.
And in recent weeks it is Jabhat al-Nusra, a radical jihadist group blacklisted by the US as terrorists and a group that wants Syria to be an uncompromising Islamic state governed by sharia, that is holding sway.
The group is well funded – probably through established global jihadist networks – in comparison to moderates. Meanwhile pro-democracy rebel group commanders say money from foreign governments has all but dried up because of fears over radical Islamists.
The effect is changing the face of the Syrian revolution.
The Nusra Front is known for some of the bravest fighters on the front lines. But the fundamentalist movement is now focusing on highly effective humanitarian programs that are quickly winning the loyalty of Aleppo’s residents.
Imbued with discipline borne of religious dogmatism it is catering to basic needs in a city that lacks everything from working factories to courts.
Chief among hardships was the languishing supply of bread. It is a staple in Syria – without it tens of thousands of the poor would starve.
When rebel fighters seized control of the grain stores around the city, the supply of flour all but ceased. Locals accused rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of raiding the stores and stealing the grain to sell.
Spontaneous pro-government protests erupted outside bakeries where families queued for bread, sometimes for days.
One started within seconds of the Daily Telegraph’s arrival at a bread queue:
Allah, Syria, Bashar! Everyone here loves Bashar al-Assad!” they screamed.
Then, in the past weeks, Jabhat al-Nusra – which is outside the FSA – pushed other rebel groups out of the stores and established a system to distribute bread throughout rebel areas.
Now let me see if I understand this correctly:
  • At the time people in Syria's most populous city turned against the Free Syrian Army and voiced their support for Bashar al-Assad, some unnamed international agency, or someone, persuaded the Obama Administration that what the city's residents needed most was tons of flour for bread, then swore Obama and everyone else involved with the scheme to secrecy.
  • Then by complete coincidence the well-heeled Nusra Front, an al Qaeda franchise, took over the city's bakeries and used the flour from the secret benefactor to bake bread and win hearts and minds.
  • Then in January 2013 President Barack Obama couldn't resist telling the secret at a UN fundraiser in Kuwait.
  • Next someone in MI6 or the Cameron Government or maybe a cranky British MP picked up on Obama's speech then rang up an editor at The Telegraph, who sent a reporter to Aleppo to investigate what Obama was blithering on about.
  • Then someone in the CIA or the Obama Administration or maybe a cranky member of Congress saw The Telegraph report and said, 'Now he's going to have to explain why we're helping al Qaeda bake bread in Syria. Call the Washington Post.'
  • And that is how Liz Sly ended up spilling the big secret, which by then was a secret only to Syrians who were eating the bread.
What can we surmise from all this? I surmise that it's a darn good thing space scientists haven't been able to find evidence that extraterrestrial civilizations exist, else the human race would be wiped out by now. We wouldn't be hard to find. Just look for the mountain called Idiots R Us.  



1 comment:

bdoran said...

Does this make Uncle Sam " A most Wanted Man" [LeCarre].


Our Rulers my Dear Pundita aren't incompetent they're malicious.