Washington D.C. (GPA) – Everyone knows U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has more to do with destabilization than diplomacy. Whether arming terror states like Israel and Saudi Arabia or flattening entire countries like Libya and Iraq, American intervention is pretty much always a humanitarian disaster. At times, this policy has even included arming ISIS — the very terror group Washington claims to oppose.
5 Times the United States Actively Supported ISIS and Similar Groups
The reason for this help is that ISIS assists U.S. foreign policy goals. It is no secret that the U.S. has tried to overthrow the democratically elected Syrian government for years. To further their goals, the U.S. regime has more or less aligned with just about every terrorist group short of ISIS publicly, including Jahbat al-Nusra.
Yet at times this alliance has extended past terror groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner. In many situations, the U.S. has seemingly supported ISIS. Whether these instances are mere coincidence or represent a pattern of support is up to you to decide. Below are five strongest instances of the U.S. helping ISIS and other terrorist groups.
1. Fighting as ISIS’s Air Force
There are several instances of the United States providing air support to terrorist groups like ISIS but none quite as obvious — and dire — as Deir Ez Zor in 2016.
In September 2016, the humanitarian situation in the Syrian city of Deir Ez Zor was dire: the largest city in eastern Syria was completely besieged by ISIS fighters. Syrian civilians and soldiers alike were completely dependent upon airlifted supplies to survive. Then, on September 17, U.S. warplanes led British, Danish, and Australian jets on a series of airstrikes against the city’s defenders, the Syrian Arab Army. The air raids lasted about an hour and decimated crucial Syrian Army positions on the mountains that overlook Deir Ez Zor airport. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the airstrikes killed at least sixty-two Syrian soldiers and injured over 100 more.
Immediately following the airstrikes, ISIS fighters attacked the weakened Syrian troops defending the critical mountains. ISIS ultimately overran positions on the mountains threatening both the airbase and the cities roughly 200,000 residents. These particular airstrikes occurred during a ceasefire between “rebel” and Syrian Arab Army forces. After the strikes, the ceasefire quickly fell apart.
While the U.S. claims the airstrikes were intended to strike ISIS fighters, Russia and Syria see the situation differently. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador said “It is highly suspicious that the US chose to conduct this particular air strike at this time,” adding that the strikes killing Syrian soldiers did not look like a mistake. Syrian President Bashar Assad went so far as to say that the U.S. airstrikes intentionally targeted the Syrian Army.
2. Granting Safe Passage to ISIS through a Secret Deal
Speaking of ISIS’s siege of Deir Ez-Zor, ISIS fighters were again bolstered there by the now infamous “Raqqa Deal:” a secret agreement between the U.S.-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS.
Encircled ISIS fighters were transported via trucks through SDF territory to other parts of the country — including Deir Ez-Zor. ISIS fighters left the area with their weapons and “families” including captured sex slaves and children .
While the U.S. and Kurds intended to keep the deal secret for obvious reasons, news quickly broke when disgruntled truck drivers talked to the press. Since they were hired under false pretenses, the truck drivers were quite surprised to discover that their cargo included heavily armed terrorists laden with suicide belts.
According to the U.S. coalition, the SDF granted safe passage out of Raqqa to only 250 ISIS terrorists but this number is more likely than not a boldface lie. Talal Silo, a former commander in the Syrian Democratic Forces, says roughly 4,000 ISIS fighters were bussed out of the city with their families and weapons. Silo also claims that U.S. officials made the decision in consultation with the SDF — contradicting the U.S. narrative that local SDF commanders forced it upon the U.S.
3. Supplying Sophisticated Anti-tank Weapons to Terrorist Groups
Of all the weapons in ISIS’s arsenal, perhaps none are more devastating than U.S.-made TOW launchers. These laser-guided anti-tank missiles make it extremely difficult to secure terrorist-controlled areas because they partially negate the big advantage that tanks and armored vehicles provide forces fighting underequipped terrorists. In 2015, an ISIS propaganda video even featured one such TOW launcher destroying a modern Russian Tank.
According to a 2014 Washington Post article, the U.S. provided many of these launchers to the self-described “moderate” rebel groups like Harakat Hazm (or Movement of Steadfastness) which later joined hardline extremist Levant Front. In the case of Harakat Hazm, the group joined the extremist Levant Front just a year after receiving the U.S. TOW launchers. The Levant Front is a broad coalition consisting not of ISIS fighters per se, but still containing fighters under the banner of numerous terrorist organizations within its ranks.
4. (Likely) Arming Terrorists with Surface-to-Air Weapons
One of the most devastating weapons available to ISIS and ISIS adjacent forces are MANPADS: shoulder fired anti-aircraft rocket launchers.
Ample video evidence displays fighters of every rebel group from ISIS to al-Qaeda in Syria using such weapons to devastating effect. One video even shows ISIS fighters with U.S.-made Javelin rocket launchers. While it is possible these weapons were simply captured, some evidence points to the weapons being supplied by the U.S.
Many foreign policy experts suggest that the U.S. and its allies have quietly supplied these devastating anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian “rebels.” Such an operation would be relatively easy to cover up as the U.S. has a large amount of Soviet made MANPADS looted from Iraq and Libya.
Fueling suspicions even more, in 2016, the U.S. Congress granted the president legal authority to supply these devastating weapons to “moderate” Syrian rebels. Seeing as how “moderate” rebels has previously included groups such as al-Nusra and al- Qaeda, this new legal authority represents a major escalation.
Since the bill passed, there has been two high profile cases of jihadist forces using MANPADS to shoot down fighter jets. RT and other non-western news sources have suggested that the
-MANPADS used in the attacks originated from the U.S. although it’s impossible to determine the weapons’ origins from mere terrorist propaganda videos. Very convenient plausible deniability.
5. Using Turkey and Saudi Arabia as Proxies to Funnel Support to ISIS
Perhaps the largest and most obscure way that the U.S. helps ISIS and other terror groups is through middlemen like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. gives extensive military, intelligence and financial aid to these regimes that then funnel those resources towered ISIS.
During the early days of the ISIS’s rise, Turkey’s open border policy was instrumental to foreign terrorists flooding into Iraq and Syria. In fact, Turkey’s involvement with ISIS runs so deep that in 2016 David Phillips, an ex-State Department and Columbia University researcher, published a comprehensive study on Turkey’s support for ISIS.
The study found evidence of Turkey providing military equipment, transport and logistical assistance, training, medical care to ISIS fighters. But that’s not all. The study determined that Turkey supports ISIS financially through purchasing oil and assisting ISIS recruitment. The report also said Turkish forces fight alongside ISIS fighters (specifically referring to the Battle for Kobani). Phillips attributes all this to the idea that Turkey and ISIS share a common worldview.
Saudi Arabia — another U.S. ally — covertly supports ISIS while publicly opposing the terror group. According to a report by the British government, Saudi Arabia supplied ISIS with major financing. London attempted to bury the report because of the embarrassment it could cause the U.K. government.
Even the neoconservative Brookings Institute admits that “Saudi Arabia’s contribution to Islamist extremism has far outstripped Iran’s.” Hillary Clinton, one of Saudi Arabia’s staunchest supporters in the U.S., has privately admitted that Riyadh supports ISIS.
In a 2014 email published by WikiLeaks, Clinton wrote that “While this military/para-military operation is moving forward [in Syria], we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Isis] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
Clinton of course, was an outspoken advocate of arming “moderate” Syrian rebels.
Whether the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq’s WMD’s, or simple coups, secret operations that destroy entire countries for U.S. interests are as American as apple pie.
Trying to piece together the definitive actions of a government so apt at lying and deception is difficult. But what we do know doesn’t paint a good picture of the U.S. in Syria. No matter how you spin it, the U.S. and its allies are relentlessly employing terrorists to serve America’s own selfish interests.
Also published on Medium.