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Tuesday, October 27

"The BBC simply deleted the key admission that the Saudis are arming al Qaeda".

Bingo! A BBC reader caught the Beeb with its hands in the cookie jar! Then he contacted Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept or vice-versa and anyhow, we have the story of the week second to the U.S. bombing a gopher hole in the Syrian desert 6,000 times but I don't know whether that one's an urban legend. The Intercept story, BBC Protects U.K.’s Close Ally Saudi Arabia With Incredibly Dishonest and Biased Editing, by Glenn Greenwald, definitely isn't.

It's a long, complicated (and well-sourced) story but here's the gist:  Earlier this month the BBC published an article quoting an unnamed Saudi official who said that his government was continuing to send weapons to anti-Assad forces in Syria, but that the forces were not Islamic State or Nusra Front. If he'd just stopped there the mess wouldn't have happened but he went on yapping.

From the Intercept's quote from the Beeb report:
[He] said the weapons would go to three rebel alliances — Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Southern Front.
Trouble is, Jaish al-Fatah includes Nusra Front, a proscribed terrorist organization on account of it's basically al Qaeda in Syria. To return to The Intercept:
In other words, the claim from the anonymous Saudi official that the BBC uncritically regurgitated — that the Saudis are only arming the Army of Conquest but no groups that “include” the Nusra Front — is self-negating. A BBC reader, Ricardo Vaz, brought this contradiction to the BBC’s attention. 
As he told The Intercept: “The problem is that the Nusra Front is the most important faction inside the Army of Conquest. So either the Saudi official expected the BBC journalist not to know this, or he expects us to believe they can deliver weapons to factions fighting side by side with an al Qaeda affiliate and that those weapons will not make their way into Nusra’s hands. In any case, this is very close to an official admission that the Saudis (along with Qataris and Turkish) are supplying weapons to an al Qaeda affiliate. This of course is not a secret to anyone who’s paying attention.”
In response to Vaz’s complaint, the BBC did not tell its readers about this vital admission. Instead, it simply edited that Saudi admission out of its article. In doing so, it made the already-misleading article so much worse, as the BBC went even further out of its way to protect the Saudis. This is what that passage now states on the current version of the article on the BBC’s site (emphasis added):
"He said those groups being supplied did not include either Islamic State (IS) or al-Nusra Front, both of which are proscribed terrorist organizations. Instead, he said the weapons would go to the Free Syrian Army and other small rebel groups."
Glenn actually doesn't have a problem with the Saudis arming Qaeda, Inc. in Syria against the Assad Administration:
I personally don’t view the presence of al Qaeda “affiliated” fighters as a convincing argument against supporting Syrian rebels. It’s understandable that people fighting against an oppressive regime — one backed by powerful foreign factions — will align with anyone willing and capable of fighting with them. ...
It was the BBC being sneaky that outraged him.

However, if not for that oppressive Assad regime and its foreign backers -- Russia and Iran -- the Qatar-backed Muslim Brotherhood would have taken over Syria years ago and massacred or run off every minority group in the country. Unless one wants to subscribe to the conspiracy theory put forward by historian Eric Zuesse
"The US goal in Syria is a failed state where the local warlords — who will be ISIS [ISIL], al-Nusra, and other jihadists — will share the oil-and-gas profits with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which will build through Syria pipelines into Europe, thereby replacing Russia's supplies of oil and gas. This is Obama's goal and not only that, of King Saud, the Qatari Emir, and the other direct economic beneficiaries of the plan,"
Even if Zuesse's speculation pans out, I'd still think the pipeline scheme would have been predated by the Brothers' plotting and scheming to take over Syria, which they've been doing for decades.  
Moving along, I agree with Glenn to the extent it's no use getting bent out of shape about Al Saud moving weapons to Qaeda, Inc. in Syria; it's been open knowledge for years that the Saudis fund Qaeda. But I personally do have a problem with my own government arming rebel factions of any kind in Syria and this includes ones associated with al Qaeda.

The BBC sneakiness is small chips next to the U.S. government's in arming sworn enemies of Americans. Last night John Batchelor point-blank asked Long War Journal's Bill Roggio whether the U.S. was still arming Qaeda factions in Syria. Bill's answer was chilling. Paraphrasing: By a roundabout way, yes.

The interview, which includes LWJ's update on Terror, Inc. activity in Afghanistan, Syria, and East Africa, can be heard on the podcast; the specific exchange I referenced starts at the 3:25 minute mark.  See also Tom Joscelyn's October 25 report for Long War Journal, Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, Ajnad al Sham form anti-Russian alliance in Damascus countryside.

There is a particular reason to be alarmed at this point about continued U.S. arming of groups in Syria; rather there will be after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford testity today before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

The two have been pressing for greater U.S. troop involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The stunt Carter pulled by sending Delta Force troops into a hostage rescue situation in Iraq, which resulted in the death of a U.S. soldier, was his trial balloon. If Code Pink didn't mass in the streets in protest, he could inch forward.

To explain Carter's next move, here's a report from The Hill last night, which beat The Washington Post to the punch with the news (listen to John Batchelor's discussion of the Post report with Bill Roggio at the podcast link, above):

Pentagon weighing deeper US involvement in Iraq [and Syria]
By Kristina Wong

Top leaders at the Pentagon are considering a range of options to bolster the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including embedding some U.S. troops with Iraqi forces, according to two U.S. officials.
U.S. military commanders have forwarded several options to the Defense Department in the last few weeks, the officials told The Hill, as part of a mounting push within the administration to more aggressively target the terrorist group.

One of the options presented was embedding U.S. troops with Iraqi security forces; they would have the ability to call in airstrikes, a step that would bring American forces to the front line.

But even without a role in direct combat, that option would skirt close to having “boots on the ground” in Iraq — something President Obama has vowed not to do in the military campaign against ISIS.

The White House has repeatedly said U.S. troops would not have a "combat role" or be engaged in "large-scale ground combat" in Iraq.

A second option sent to Pentagon leaders would embed U.S. forces with Iraqis closer to the battlefield, at the level of a brigade or a battalion.

U.S. troops are now embedded with Iraqis at the division level, which keeps them stationed at headquarters.

Some of the options sent to Pentagon leaders would entail high risk for U.S. troops in Iraq and require more personnel, one of the officials said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford will have an opportunity to discuss the options for the ISIS campaign when they testify Tuesday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

One of the biggest topics of discussion at the hearing will be the way forward in Syria, where the White House recently suspended a program to train and equip rebel forces after it fell woefully short of expectations.

After six months, the program had produced only about 80 rebels, compared with a target number of 5,000 by the end of the year. Some of the trainees admitted to handing over U.S.-supplied equipment to al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.

Complicating the situation in Syria further, Russia has launched an airstrike campaign in the country to shore up President Bashar al-Assad.

Another option under consideration, one of the officials said, is to send more ammunition and weapons to a coalition of rebel groups battling ISIS and Assad's regime. The U.S. military recently airdropped 50 tons of ammunition to the Syrian Arab Coalition, which includes about a dozen Syrian rebel groups.

Also under consideration is increased targeting of ISIS's production and sale of oil on the black market. The U.S.-led military coalition has struck oil refineries controlled by ISIS, but officials are looking at using different kinds of weapons to target the facilities.

Carter on Friday gave some insight into his thinking when he said he expected U.S. troops to conduct more raids in the war against ISIS.

"There's always a look at doing more of what works well and doing less of what doesn't work well, and refining our efforts. That will continue," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told The Hill on Monday.

"You heard the secretary allude to the one thing Friday, which is the fact that we're going to do more of these enabling missions and advise and assist and enabling missions outside the wire with trusted partners.

"Clearly there's desire to do whatever it takes to degrade and defeat ISIL," he added, using a different acronym for ISIS.

The proposals could face a backlash from liberals on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who opposed the Iraq War in 2002, said the Pentagon’s consideration of embedding U.S. troops with Iraqi forces “extremely concerning”

“We have been repeatedly reassured that the U.S. would not have a combat role in the war against ISIS, but this suggests just the opposite,” he said. “This potential escalation is just the latest evidence that it is long past time for Congress to act. Our brave men and women in uniform are doing their duty.”

“It’s time for members of Congress to do our duty by voting on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that clearly defines the U.S. military campaign against ISIS before it becomes another endless war," he added.

-- Updated at 6:34 p.m.

As to whether the Syrian Arab Coalition actually received the 50 tons of U.S. ammunition -- they claim not.  As to where the ammo might have gone, thereby hangs a strange tale.  


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