The end of the American jihad (sort of)
JSOC and its boss SOCOM, which in the last years regained some authority over its wild subaltern, are, as we have seen, veritable jihad generators, but what of the CIA? Short answer: The CIA collaborated with Wahhabi Gulf countries to arm an international jihad in Syria, notably by approving the delivery of TOW missiles that have enabled Al Qaeda to take over parts of the country by knocking out Assad’s heavy weapons. However things are a little more nuanced and less dire than that.
First of all, the CIA’s drone program appears to be more restrained and therefore more successful than JSOC’s wild killing spree. In Pakistan, it put the fear of Allah in the Tehrik-i Taliban, the Fazlullah group, the Haqqani network, etc., which have piped down a great deal and haven’t been blowing up any major targets in the country of late. The CIA seems to have stopped playing at war and gone back to counterterrorism, doing its due diligence verifying targets and taking care to eliminate them without harming innocents. Starting in 2012, the number of civilians killed dropped dramatically and is currently 0, while the target list shrank to less than 20% of the 2012 number along with the civilian casualties. Of course this didn’t happen because the CIA got smarter but because the Pakistanis got more fed up and forced the CIA to behave.
The CIA gave up another bad habit it picked up in the late 70’s, with the caveat that it has relapsed before so no guarantee that it won’t do it again. That habit is, of course, jihad.
All of the CIA’s crimes and misdemeanors in Syria were already present in the Afghanistan jihad. Perhaps the worst of these was the delusion that the international jihadis, whose database’s in-agency name was Al Qaeda, somehow “beat” the Soviet Union and that the jihad was a “victory” for the United States. In actuality, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was successful in containing the CIA jihad. The Soviets pulled out not because they had been defeated but because they had finished the job and left a capable Afghan government in charge of the country. Indeed, when the jihadis attempted, one month after the Soviet withdrawal, to capture Jalalabad, they were massacred. It was only the rise to power of the traitor Boris Yeltsin in Russia that caused the fall of the Kabul government when Yeltsin not only cut off Soviet aid to the Afghan government but “officially” handed over Afghanistan to the jihadis, causing the Afghan army to defect.
Yet, the myth of the Afghan “victory” persists, due in no small part to the self-exonerating efforts of the US architects of the Afghanistan jihad, like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Graham Fuller, who mythified that sordid affair in such a way as to cover up their responsibility for the subsequent actions of their jihadist protégés, like Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, against the US. It was thanks to the myth of the “mujahideen victory over the Soviets” that Brzezinski could brush off questions about his responsibility for 9/11 as piddling in comparison to his magnificient victory against communism.
So it was that barely as the dust of 9/11 had settled and the crime scene hurriedly swept clean, the CIA’s Kabul bureau chief during the Afghan jihad Graham Fuller was back in the saddle, expounding on the virtues of an alliance between the US and political Islam. He urged the US government to make friends with Islamists, particularly in Turkey, which he called “Turkish Delight” because, as he put it, “Political Islam in Turkey has evolved rapidly out of an initially narrow and nondemocratic understanding of Islam into a relatively responsible force,” alluding of course to Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP breaking off from Erbakan’s local Muslim Brotherhood chapter the Welfare Party.
The opening Fuller needed to get his show on the road appeared when the oil men in the White House decided to invade Iraq and needed to do it through Turkey, where the then Prime Minister Ecevit, of Cyprus invasion fame, was not a big fan of the US, which had slapped on him an arms embargo, the feeling being mutual. The CIA had tried to assassinate him back then; it would do so again but when it did, a suitable stooge would be needed to replace him. Graham Fuller had just the man: soccer-playing imam Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mayor of Istanbul. Fuller, together with rabidly neocon former ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz, who had first discovered Tayyip, and the State Department’s Turkey expert Henri Barkey, launched their star onto the Beltway, not forgetting to have the anti-semitic islamist imam pay his respects to AIPAC as per Beltway protocol.
Fuller’s gameplan wasn’t merely to make Tayyip Erdogan the doorman of Iraq (which he failed to do, as Turkey’s generals managed to convince parliament not to let US troops through) but to turn Turkey into a model for the “Arab spring” color revolutions that he planned to stage in the future. Accordingly, Erdogan got the US’s backing to free Turkish politics from the iron grip of the military by locking up a third of Turkey’s generals, who had served the CIA so faithfully in the past, keeping Turkey away from the temptations of communism.
With the party-pooping generals in jail, Tayyip, as he is called by the 65% of Turks who don’t vote for him in Turkey’s rigged elections, was free to set up his poster-boy model Muslim democracy. For nearly a decade, most Turks believed that their country had really turned a new leaf. However, everything went south with the Syria jihad.
The Crazy Project
Having installed the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt under the smokescreen of an Arab Spring color revolution, the US and its vassals got busy preparing to topple Gaddafi in order to seize Libya’s oil. Morsi’s goons armed and trained the jihadis of Derna and Benghazi, already infamous for flocking to Iraq as suicide bombers. When the US tried to turn this imperialist war into a NATO operation, however, it met with unexpected resistance from its Turkish stooge Erdogan, who was unwilling to sacrifice billions worth of construction contracts in Libya, and objected by rightfully asking, on 2 April, 2011, “What business does NATO have in Libya?”
Tayyip was then called to Jeddah for a 3-day haggling session with the GCC’s oil sheikhs who had a vested interest in getting their brand of fundamentalist Islam in power in Tripoli in place of their hated oil-rich nemesis Gaddafi. Tayyip did what Turks are famous for and drove a exasperatingly hard bargain, obtaining, according to Grey Wolves construction mafia baron Abdullah Çiftçi, a commitment by the GCC to buy 5 millon housing units in 10 years. This translated to 25-30 million Gulf bedouins coming to Turkey with their families and, more importantly, their oil money. It was the answer to all of Tayyip’s prayers. Not only would he personally become as rich as a Saudi sheikh but the foreign-debt-financed construction bubble that fueled Turkey’s rapid growth and reduced unemployment would cease to be unsustainable, the accumulated debts would be paid down, and the AKP would remain in power for a thousand years. On April 23, Tayyip’s impish foreign minister Davutoglu was still railing at NATO that Turkey would “never join a crusade.” The very next day, the NATO operations center for bombing Libya was transferred to Turkey. On the 27th, Tayyip announced his “crazy project,” the second Istanbul he would build on a canal parallel to the Bosphorus, where he would settle the incoming Khaleejis.
In June of the same year, having sealed the deal that would save Turkey from its chronic debt defaults, Tayyip launched the jihad against Bashar Assad, whom he had called “my brother” as recently as 10 months ago, when the Assad family was vacationing in Turkey as guests of President Abdullah Gül. Tayyip’s “prince of darkness” the spy chief Hakan Fidan, rounded up some smugglers and other criminals in the villages bordering Syria’s conservative Sunni Idlib province and sent them on a killing spree against Syrian security personnel and government employees. The smugglers, whom Turkish intelligence had always used to spy on Syria, not only slaughtered Syrian civil servants, police, and soldiers, but posed as civilian activists and refugees for the news media and encouraged civilians in Idlib to flee “from the regime’s revenge” to “refugee camps” that Tayyip had readied for them in Turkey near the border, all within easy mortar range of Syria had the Syrian regime truly wished to extract “revenge.”
By 2013, what Tayyip and his Western and GCC backers thought would be a Libya-style quick-and-easy regime-change war had turned into a war of attrition and Syria had become a melting pot of Islamist terrorists flocking into it from the four corners of the world. Although some of the media continued to spin the jihadist terrorist presence in Syria as “a minority,” the Pentagon’s intelligence agency the DIA was already taking measures to curb the CIA’s support for those terrorists, whom it saw as a real threat. As revealed by Seymour Hersh in January, the DIA, backed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, actively undermined and sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s strategy to topple Assad and the arms pipeline that she, together with Petraeus at the CIA, had set up between Benghazi and Syria. There is little doubt that the DIA’s efforts had something to do with the fatal attack on September 11, 2012 against the US Benghazi “consulate” and CIA compound that was the hub of the Syria-bound arms traffic.
The Benghazi fiasco saw both Petraeus and Hillary out of their jobs and Obama started his second term with a total overhaul of his Syria policy, which up till then had been a hostage to both Israel-firster Hillary and neocon holdovers from the Bush-Cheney era, whom Obama had been forced to work with in order to get elected in 2008. 2013 was the year when Obama decided to launch his ill-fated train and equip program, a somewhat desultory, low-rent attempt that he didn’t have great faith in to wrest the anti-Assad rebellion away from the jihadis. Nobody in the administration expected the program to do much and it didn’t disappoint. It only existed because backing jihadis, who were the backbone, brains, and muscle of the anti-Assad jhad, was not an option, and neither was calling the whole thing off.
Obama steps up to the plate
Accordingly, when the Turkish premier came to Washington in May 2013, the POTUS told him to call off his fundamentalist jihad. Tayyip knew what was coming, as he and Obama had already had a tense exchange in August 2012, when the jihadists he unleashed on Damascus were roundly defeated. Obama posed for photos during the phone call holding a baseball bat, sparking outrage in Turkey. Nevertheless, Tayyip started a fight, claiming Assad had crossed Obama’s WMD “red line” and demanding US military intervention, brushing off Obama’s accusations that he was aiding and abetting Al Qaeda as if they were trivial. When he returned to Turkey, he was faced with a trademark color revolution, the Gezi uprising, and a palace coup brewing inside the AKP: Obama’s baseball bat had sprung into action.
At this point we need to flash back on another aspect of the CIA’s support for Tayyip and the AKP: Fethullah Gülen’s “Hizmet” network. Gülen is a preacher with a huge international Turkish-speaking following who commands a vast network of power, money, and influence. Or more precisely, he co-presides over it, sharing the levers of command with the CIA, which uses Gülen’s “Hizmet” network to recruit and place hundreds of agents and assets. When the Turkish generals bullied and intimidated Erbakan’s Islamist party into giving up power in 1997, they also set their sights on Gülen, who had been working hard to infiltrate the army as he did the police. Gülen fled to the US two years later. His Green Card application ran into opposition from the FBI, which investigated his shady charter schools, but his influental friends vouched for him, Graham Fuller not least of all.
It was thanks to the Gülenists’ infiltration of the Turkish police that Tayyip was able to throw the generals plotting to topple him in jail, and sundry other opponents with them. It was their highly educated and connected cadres, light years ahead of the primary-school- or madrassah-educated mosque-goers who fill the ranks of the AKP, who enabled him to put together a credible government. Naturally, when Obama decided to pull the rug out from under Tayyip, it was the Hizmet network that he looked to.
Polls of the Gezi Park protesters revealed that the only common factor that brought them out on the street was police violence. It was police brutality that blew up an insignificant tree-hugger demo in a corner of Gezi Park into a national upheaval, uniting political groups who normally wouldn’t share the same room in massive street demos. The Gülen network was known to control much of the police force that was the catalyst for all this. The interior minister, Muammer Güler, was a suspected Gülenist. He alternated extreme violence with extreme passivity, allowing the crowds worked up by the disproprotionate police violence to set up a commune in Gezi Park and build barricades that looked great on camera, whereas he could have scattered them in minutes had he wished to. The police dialed the action on the streets up or down at will, the disorganized and heterogenous protesters having almost no initiative.
“The assertion that the T.N.P. [Turkish National Police] is controlled by the Gülenists is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it.”
-James Jeffrey, former Ambassador to Turkey
There was no doubt that the US was fully behind the uprising, with CNN’s Arwa Damon dodging gas canisters on Taksim square and Amanpour cutting off Tayyip’s adviser Kalin’s denials of police brutality with “Sir, the show is over.” The US ambassador cheered on student protesters braving Tayyip’s TOMAs (high-pressure chemical-spraying armored vehicles euphemistically called water cannon) and humiliated government ministers who attended the 4th of July reception. Gülenists in the government sided with the protesters, President Gül invited them to his palace, and TV networks interrupted their self-censorship to allow the protesters to voice their grievances to the whole nation.
Tayyip becomes an islamist dictator
Tayyip’s self-preservation reflexes were strong, however, and he didn’t hesitate to instil a reign of terror to hang on to power. Since the summer of 2013, that terror has been constantly ratcheted up against what he correctly diagnosed as a Gülenist coup attempt, turning Turkey into a typical third-world tin-pot dictatorship.
Aside from the CIA and the Gülenists trying to unseat him and the NSA leaking wiretaps of embarrassing conversations that revealed the total corruption and deceitfulness of his regime, Tayyip had to contend with the failure of his jihadists to make any significant headway in Syria. Real estate purchases by Khaleejis were similarly disappointing, as Tayyip had failed to hold up his side of the bargain, i.e. unseat Assad. His “crazy project” shrank daily, from the initial grandiose projection of 1.5 million housing units to 500,000 in 2015, none of them yet built.
It was in these dire straits that the Turkish de facto dictator pinned his hopes on ISIS and Al Nusra, arguably the most effective anti-Assad forces on the field. By doing so, he set off an entirely unforeseen and game-changing Kurdish ascendance that began in Kobane and spread to the whole of Turkey, dealing a severe blow to the AKP in the June 2015 elections. Tayyip’s survival instincts pushed him to block the formation of a government and force a reelection that this time he rigged more thoroughly, while AKP militants burned down HDP offices and lynched HDP officials. Government-backed ISIS terrorists from the infamous “Islam Tea House” in Adiyaman bombed HDP rallies, forcing the Kurds to cancel their election campaign. Not believing in half measures, Tayyip also launched a war on Turkey’s Kurds and branded the HDP a terrorist organization.
Enter the PKK, Washington’s new champion
Although Washington remained largely silent about the ravages being inflicted on Turkey by its dictator and fumed impotently as he ran the Pentagon’s “Train and Equip” program into the ground with his competing jihadist “Sultan” brigades named after Ottoman monarchs, the Kurdish warriors of Syria and Iraq were another matter entirely. As they beat back ISIS relentlessly, Obama finally saw that he had a real shot at a Syria policy there. No more ISIS or Al Qaeda, no more Division 30 losers, no more having to depend on frenemy Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The PKK and its Syrian branch were almost perfect allies, as they were (initially at least) totally dependent on the US both militarily and politically, with the hope of seeing the PKK delisted as a terrorist organization, not to mention eternally grateful for rescuing them at Kobane. The only tiny catch was that the US’s NATO “ally” Turkey, with dozens of NATO installations, nuclear arms depots, and critical radars on its territory, not to mention the strategic Turkish straits, was at war with them. However the US had imposed an arms embargo on its “ally” before and even bagged its soldiers like terrorists. There was no reason it couldn’t do so again.
The US defense of Kobane, where ISIS lost around 6,000 men, seemed to indicate, along with its efforts to train and equip non-jihadis, that by early 2015, it had completely renounced its decades-long sponsorship of salafist jihadis. Not so. When Al Qaeda hordes from the four corners of the world poured into Idlib from Turkey in March 2015 under the banner of the “Army of Conquest,” rapidly capturing Idlib and Jisr al Shughour, they did so thanks to a rain of TOW anti-tank missiles which had been distributed to selected Turkmen gangs by the CIA. In plain English, CIA-backed and -armed groups provided the heavy weapons support to Al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world. Their missiles cleared the path for Al Qaeda’s massive truck bombs, each equivalent to a small tactical nuke. The Pentagon may have cleaned up its act but the CIA was still playing dirty.
Vlad weighs in
What really tipped the balance against the salafist-backers in the US government was the simple fact that Russia came and crushed them – the salafists, not the US government. When the Russian air force began its campaign on September 30 from its base in Latakia, it was still within Grad rocket range of Al Qaeda terrorists dug into the Latakia mountains, so its top priority was naturally to secure that province, leading to jeers from the West that it wasn’t attacking ISIS but the “moderate rebels.” However in November 2015, Russia shocked the world by publishing targeting camera videos of immense convoys of ISIS fuel tankers headed for Turkey. Those videos not only revealed the stunning breadth of Turkey’s oil trade with ISIS, first uncovered in the Abu Sayyaf documents captured by US Delta Force raiders in May 2015, but also exposed the total failure of the US to act on that intelligence. In fact, nothing more had been heard about those “hundreds of documents and flash drives” seized at the Abu Sayyaf compound according to which direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members was “undeniable”. The most generous explanation for this apparently treasonous behavior that comes to mind is that the ISIS-Turkey oil traffic was covered up in exchange for the Turks opening Incirlik airbase, in August, to Operation Inherent Resolve, the air campaign against ISIS.
The US’s failure to attack ISIS’s main revenue stream, coming on top of the fact that 75% of the missions flown by US aircraft ended without weapons release because it had no boots and therefore no eyes on the ground, made a mockery of the US’s so-called war on ISIS. Stung by these embarrassing revelations, the US upped its game and soon, the YPG backed by US air power was heading from Hasaka, which it had captured in July 2015, to Shaddadi, a major oil production and distribution hub, which it captured in February 2016. Earlier, in December 2015, the YPG, supported by A-10 attack aircraft from Incirlik, had casually crossed Turkey’s Euphrates River “red line” and had begun to advance up the road to Al Bab, the primary ISIS stronghold in Aleppo province. US air power had finally found its eyes on the ground to sniff out ISIS hiding in its tunnels: the PKK.
In February, videos and photos began to surface documenting the military cooperation between the YPG, US forces, and the PKK. The A-10 mentioned earlier flying over Tishrin Dam, US special forces sharing a firing position with the PKK, a highly sophisticated and expensive shoulder-fired US Javelin anti-tank missile being fired at an ISIS VBIED, YPG guerrillas posing with another Javelin on a tripod, all of these were released on the web as a premeditated affront to the Turks, telling them in no uncertain terms that the alliance between the US and PKK-aligned guerrilla forces was here to stay.
In Syria and Iraq, at least, the US had finally, thanks to the PKK and Russia, weaned itself from its jihad habit and found a way to defend its interests without relying on medieval-minded terrorists. If Washington plays its cards right, the PKK could be just the leverage it needs to keep both Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, as well as Iraq’s feudal Kurdish overlord Barzani, in line, while the PKK in turn would gain the democratic autonomy all of the region’s Kurds and other minorities long for. Moreover, with the Middle East’s best warriors (along with Hezbollah) by its side, the US could see its “Long War” considerably shortened. Whether it really wants that is of course doubtful.