Is this article by Martin Chulov a blatant example of dishonest journalism? If so it is not an isolated case. Recent in all the media including the BBC concerning the pseudo withdrawal of US troops from Northern Syria all reiterate the notion that the Kurds where the most important allies in fighting and defeating Da’esh in Syria. In this narrative there is no mention whatsoever of the role played by the Russian intervention in 2015 which reversed the inexorable rise of Da’esh till then whilst the US and ‘allies’ watched at a distance, or of the logistic and economic support for Da’esh coming through Turkey, presumably financed by the Saudi and Gulf monarchies and with weapons supplied by the US and NATO.
But the Chulov piece is a masterful example of deceit through omission, an attempt to rewrite history, because as we know, Wikipedia and other sources are then more likely to quote this because it is printed in the Guardian.
So, let us analyze this piece and compare it to actual happenings: the title says it all
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death comes as new order takes shape in Middle East
In aftermath of Isis’s toxic mix of chaos and intolerance, new spheres of influence are being demarcated
Mosul was the first to fall, its capture used by Baghdadi to proclaim the formation of a new caliphate on the lands of northern Iraq. Soon it spread to Raqqa, and to the east of Aleppo. The Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil was in the group’s sights, so too the oil city of Kirkuk, and very nearly Baghdad.
As the dominoes tumbled, Isis gathered momentum. Its toxic mantra of doctrinal intolerance took root in some areas, but in others it forced populations to flee en masse. Communities that had co-existed since the dawn of millennia were uprooted and are yet to return. Tented shanty towns of the displaced remain dotted across the Kurdish norths of Iraq and Syria a testament to an upheaval which could take generations to be reversed.
It was very clear at this stage that the US and allies where very happy to stand by and watch the expansion of ISIS and here are two analyses, one from Jacob Siegal from the Daily Beast and the other from Seumus Milne from the Guardian that explain why the US was reluctant to interfere as the rise of ISIS if not really planned, suited the then current policy.
By mid last year a momentum that had seemed unstoppable had begun to slow. In Iraq, militia groups that had fought alongside the Iraqi army had clawed back all major cities. In Syria, Kurdish proxies of the US had recaptured Raqqa and nearly all the territory Isis had seized. The rest was retaken earlier this year in a painstaking push near where it all began for the forerunners of Isis, along the Euphrates River basin.
Where was Martin when Putin declared in the UN in September 2015 that Russia was going to interfere and defend the Syrian state?
The Russian involvement started by bombing extensive convoys of oil tankers stealing Syrian oil and transporting it illegally to Turkey for onward smuggling
This, and the Russian accusations against Turkeys role in this illegal trade did not go down very well with Erdogan who retaliated by shooting down a Russian warplane
The whole long battle which led to the liberation of Palmyra in March 2016 by the Russian and Syrian forces and subsequent beating back of Da’esh from central Syria to the banks of the Euphrates seems to be airbrushed from all the recent narratives including this one.
Not only did the US and allies and the MSM not acknowledge the role played by the SAA against Da’esh, they even tried to help the terrorist group by bombing the SAA at the Al Thardeh mountains during the battle to relieve the siege of Deir Ezzor .
These events of course also took place while the Syrian Army with the help of Russia were also fighting the ‘moderate’ Al Qaeda linked rebels in other parts of Syria such as in Hama, Aleppo and East Ghouta in Damascus.
The US decision to abandon the Kurds who fought on their behalf is unlikely to bring stability to a still volatile area, where the stark realities exposed by the Isis rampage remain just as troubling in defeat. The ground war was won by non-state actors who fought on Iraq and Syria’s behalf. The national armies of both countries splintered in the face of the threat and are yet to fully regroup.
These ‘non state actors’ were the Hashed al sha’abi in Iraq sponsored by Iran and of course the Kurds, backed by the US. The US then discarded the Kurds as much as they had previously discarded the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and Da’esh in the current conflict after they have fulfilled their purpose.
Isis took hold in the vacuum of the 2003 US invasion, which had ousted the Sunni ruling class in Iraq and diminished the status the sect held in society. The group positioned itself as a champion of the disenfranchised – willing to reclaim lost glories and restore Islamic precepts.
Mr Chulov seems to have conveniently forgotten how this vacuum was orchestrated, either deliberately or through negligence. The state in Iraq was dismantled and so was the police and army and all the security apparatus that went with them. This has led to a vacuum filled in by Al Qaeda which never existed in Iraq before. This was under the watchful eyes of the occupation forces. Eventually, the majority Shia were able to form a meaningful organised opposition and it was probably a deliberate divide and rule policy on the part of the coalition to introduce the militant Sunni factions to exploit the division this created. Ironically all of this allowed Iran to have a much more important input into Iraqi politics than was ever possible before the invasion.
A sense of Sunni grievance was central to its message, and it readily tapped into the fortunes of Sunnis elsewhere; in Lebanon, whose patron Rafik Hariri was assassinated in 2005 and in Syria, where the anti-Assad opposition was primarily drawn from the same sect.
This is another false narrative. The apparent years of dominance of the minority Sunni in Iraq and the oppression of the Shi’a majority does not seem to feature here but this lost dominance seems to now be the cause of the friction. The conflation of this with the assassination of Rafiq al Hariri as the representative of the Sunni in Lebanon is another attempt at conflating unrelated events into a conspiracy against Sunnis in the Levant. In Syria, the majority of the Syrian army is made up of Sunnis and again to pretend that the spill over of Isis as a representative of Sunni disgruntlement into the Syrian war is a laughable reinterpretation of facts.
But the huge disruption and grievances the group caused remain raw and largely unresolved. The naked failings of authority in the region are in many ways just as troubling. Weak political governance offers few guarantees of justice or reconciliation. Perceived losses are unlikely to be recovered anytime soon.
The disruption and grievances will remain as long as the alliance maintains the illusion that they can achieve a removal of the legitimate Syrian government and obstruct the reconstruction of Syria by punitive sanctions and prevention of aid to rebuild.
Instead, a new regional order is taking shape that underpins the tremendous chaos Isis has caused. New areas of influence are being demarcated and there is now a real chance that some of the region’s post second world war borders could be redrawn along ethnic sectarian lines.
Be honest Martin. The new order is that Russia has established its presence in the region in a constructive way and is trying to mend bridges and act as a go between previously irreconcilable enemies. The US and its allies have lost influence. The ME policy is in tatters and influence is daily being lost. Admission of defeat and attempt at construction would be the best way forward for everyone concerned.
In Syria’s volatile east, large restive populations of Isis detainees remain interned where, for the past six months, they have been able to reorganise. The new Isis camps are bigger and more combustible than the US versions in southern Iraq, where Baghdadi earned his stripes as a future leader during a nine month stint in 2004. Back then, he was able to convince his captors that he was a stabilising influence, and they let him go. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was anything but. He lived and died as one of the savage and influential figures of modern times.
The large restive population of Isis supporters that was left for the Kurds to be dealt with reflects the fact that many foreigners swelled the ranks of Isis. It is the refusal of the countries from which these foreigners came, to take them back to deal with them in the framework of their law and international law that has left the Kurds, not a developed state, to care for them. Their regrouping is everything to do with relegation of duties of the allies to deal with this festering problem.
And as to the assertion that Baghdadi convinced his captors that he is a stabilising influemce…, this is pure fiction. I wonder whether these same people also thought Al Jolani, al Nusra and the FSA may be able to take over this role. Oh wait, I think they do by the looks of it.