(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — On November 13, 2017, the BBC dropped a bombshell report that exposed how the U.S. cut a secret deal with “hundreds” of ISIS fighters and their families to leave the Syrian city of Raqqa under the “gaze of the U.S. and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city.” The convoys reportedly included some of ISIS’ “most notorious” members, as well as its foreign fighters and tonnes of weapons and ammunition.
Almost a month later, Reuters reported that a high-level defector from Kurdish-led forces in Syria had revealed that the number of ISIS fighters given safe passage by the U.S.-led coalition was actually in the thousands, not hundreds. This account was seconded by a security official in Turkey despite the fact that Turkey and the Kurdish militia do not typically see eye to eye).
“Agreement was reached for the terrorists to leave, about 4,000 people, them and their families,” the defector said, as quoted by Reuters, adding that all but about 500 were fighters.
The defector also noted that the fighters were headed toward Deir ez-Zor, Syria’s most oil-rich region. The U.S. had been eager to bomb Deir ez-Zor for some time prior to the deal, and allowing ISIS safe passage to get there would merely give them the pretext to do so. In June of this year, regional outlet Al-Masdar released a video that appeared to show convoys of ISIS fighters leaving Raqqa, as well, though the media paid very little attention to this.
All of this begs the question: If the U.S. allowed 4,000 ISIS fighters to leave Raqqa, who on earth were they bombing during their brutal siege? Donald Trump’s illegal air campaign killed well over 1,800 civilians and brought the city to ruin — to the point that Russia accused the U.S. of wiping Raqqa “off the face of the earth.” The U.S. government knew ISIS was leaving the city safely but kept on bombing it into devastation, anyway.
Raqqa Secret Deal Barely Scratches the Surface
Now that we know the U.S. is amenable to granting ISIS fighters safe passage, ISIS’ ability to take over huge swaths of Iraq and Syria in the first place start to make a bit more sense. In June 2014, ISIS effortlessly took the strategic oil-rich cities of Mosul and Baiji and almost made it as far as Baghdad. The U.S. sat on its hands and did nothing the entire time, even as the militants took massive loads of American military equipment as spoils and brandished it all over social media. While ISIS was flaunting its activities untouched by the American military in Iraq, the U.S. was busy launching drone strikes in Pakistan, instead.
Why would the Obama administration prioritize air strikes in a country that overwhelmingly disapproves of them when it could have prevented ISIS from setting up a mini-state in Iraq at the same time?
Over the last few years, we have seen this similar pattern occur over and over again. When it came to Obama’s grand offensive to retake Mosul in 2016, reports also began emerging that the U.S. was granting safe passage for ISIS fighters to move from Mosul into Raqqa. Even if the U.S. hadn’t cut a formal deal with ISIS on this particular occasion, the reality on the ground was that the U.S. was allowing ISIS fighters to make their way into Syria from Mosul and doing little to stop them regardless. As Anti-Media documented at the time:
“According to Army Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, as reported by anti-Russian newspaper, the Guardian, ISIS militants are already fleeing Mosul to Syria. This was further confirmed by the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, who said that if ISIS were forced out of Mosul, they would likely go on to Syria.”
Why weren’t they striking these traveling ISIS fighters before they made it to Syria? When viewed in its recent historical context and with the most recent reports in mind, the answer to that question should be clear.
The U.S. Has Also Provided ISIS With Direct Air Support
The Syrian government and its allies are the most heavily engaged entities fighting ISIS inside Syria – not the U.S. military (or its allies). Yet the U.S. military has struck these pro-government forces directly multiple times over the last year, even when these troops have proven to be very effective against the jihadist group.
In September 2016, the U.S.-led coalition launched a barrage of airstrikes at Syrian government troops who were fending off the ISIS component of Deir ez-Zor at the time. Russia accused the U.S. coalition of providing air cover for ISIS because the terror group used the coalition strike to launch an offensive of their own. Over 60 Syrian soldiers died as a result of this illegal act of war, but no one was held accountable.
It has also been speculated that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Syria strike in April paved the way for an ISIS offensive, as well.
ISIS Took Advantage of U.S. Weapons Transfers
So far, we know that ISIS has received safe passage from the U.S. on at least one occasion and that the terror group has also received free air support on a number of other occasions. We also know the U.S. either directly or indirectly allowed ISIS to gain territory in the first place only to provide the pretext for a military intervention.
But wait, it gets even better. Just this month, a report conducted by the U.K.-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group, which analyzed 40,000 items its investigators recovered along ISIS’ front lines between July 2014 and November 2017, found that the terror group was able to successfully arm itself by taking advantage of U.S. weapons transfers between Washington and its other allies in Syria. ISIS even garnered some of the more powerful anti-tank missiles through the CIA’s covert arms program.
“International weapon supplies to factions in the Syrian conflict have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to IS forces — in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone,” the report said.
The U.S. didn’t need to wait for an official report for this horrifying development to come to light. As far back as October 2012, the New York Times reported the following:
“[M]ost of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster…” [emphasis added]
Even if the U.S. had zero control over ISIS and the mayhem it has exacted over Iraq, Syria, and beyond — and was genuine in its bid to rid the world of its ideology and the horror the terror group has unleashed — there is one issue yet to be discussed: ISIS’ existence.
US Created Conditions for ISIS to Exist
ISIS evolved out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which only became a formidable fighting force after the U.S. invaded in 2003. This was in part due to the Bush administration’s decision to fire close to 400,000 servicemen in Iraq, simply because of their affiliation with Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist party. Some of these disgruntled servicemen now hold senior ISIS positions and are responsible for the terror group’s success.
History clearly demonstrates that al-Qaeda only exists in the first place because the U.S. actively trained, funded, and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan as a means of bogging the Soviet empire down into a quagmire. The Independent even ran a story on Osama bin Laden at the time, portraying him as a heroic freedom fighter and “anti-Soviet warrior.”
However, since 9/11, the U.S. made a specific point of making aiding and providing material support to al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations a crime under U.S. law. Yet the U.S. has openly aided Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, as well as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, and now we have more than enough formal proof that the U.S. has knowingly continued a foreign policy strategy that essentially provided all manner of material support to ISIS, one of the most deadly terror groups in recent history, as well.
It’s time for someone to be held accountable. There is a case to be made against the U.S. for some very serious criminal behavior here, and if anyone is serious about defeating “radical Islamic terror,” they should start by launching a court action against the U.S. government for its die-hard support for terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.