By Ulson Gunnar
Let’s try a thought experiment. Suppose you want to create your own army in say, Syria. You live in Pakistan. You are also a listed terrorist organization allegedly being hunted by multiple nations around the world including both the United States and the EU. How do you suppose you “move” to Syria and build your army or even something as grand as an “emirate?”
With what money? With what political support? How do you pass the various borders between Pakistan and Syria to even arrive in your new “emirate?”
Like a narrative of a Saturday morning cartoon, the New York Times article, “Al Qaeda Turns to Syria, With a Plan to Challenge ISIS,” asks us to suspend disbelief, reporting:
Al Qaeda’s top leadership in Pakistan, badly weakened after a decade of C.I.A. drone strikes, has decided that the terror group’s future lies in Syria and has secretly dispatched more than a dozen of its most seasoned veterans there, according to senior American and European intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
The NYT also claims:
The operatives have been told to start the process of creating an alternate headquarters in Syria and lay the groundwork for possibly establishing an emirate through Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, to compete with the Islamic State, from which Nusra broke in 2013. This would be a significant shift for Al Qaeda and its affiliate, which have resisted creating an emirate, or formal sovereign state, until they deem conditions on the ground are ready. Such an entity could also pose a heightened terrorist threat to the United States and Europe.
It is extraordinary that Al Qaeda can openly announce this, so openly it is covered in the New York Times, and that there is any chance of it actually taking place (assuming the Western World really is fighting a “War on Terror”). It is equally extraordinary that the New York Times would make such an announcement without enumerating just what this “emirate” entails or with what resources Al Qaeda had to implement it with.
The NYT describes Al Qaeda’s “emirate” as a “formal sovereign state,” and little else. A formal sovereign state requires many things the New York Times failed to mention, among which are:
- Energy production;
- Government (national, provincial, and municipal);
- and much, much more.
Even for existing nation-states, getting all of this right is an immense challenge. Yet Al Qaeda and its Syrian franchise Al Nusra seem to have made great progress already laying such groundwork. For instance, Al Nusra has police, runs schools, has hospitals and clinics, obviously has an army, and clearly has no trouble finding money. The real question is, how have they managed to do this? This is a particularly easy question to answer if one reads between the lines of even US and European newspapers. For example, in its 2013 article titled, “Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy,” the New York Times admits:
Nusra’s hand is felt most strongly in Aleppo, where the group has set up camp in a former children’s hospital and has worked with other rebel groups to establish a Shariah Commission in the eye hospital next door to govern the city’s rebel-held neighborhoods. The commission runs a police force and an Islamic court that hands down sentences that have included lashings, though not amputations or executions as some Shariah courts in other countries have done.
Nusra fighters also control the power plant and distribute flour to keep the city’s bakeries running.
While the NYT attempts to claim this is all funded by stolen oil, it must be remembered that someone must buy that stolen oil. The Syrian government is not buying it, so who is? The answer is given by NYT’s admission of Al Nusra’s strongest influence being in Aleppo, right across the border from Turkey who clearly is both buying stolen oil from Al Nusra (and the Islamic State) as well as subsidizing their occupation of Syria in many other ways.
It is interesting that NYT mentions Al Nusra’s control over bakeries. Controlling bakeries and distributing bread to locals is one of the key activities prescribed by US strategy papers in winning over local populations. It should then be no surprise to find out who is providing these Al Nusra-controlled bakeries with a steady supply of flour, the United States.
In the Washington Post’s article, also published in 2013, “U.S. feeds Syrians, but secretly,” it is stated that:
In the heart of rebel-held territory in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, a small group of intrepid Westerners is undertaking a mission of great stealth. Living anonymously in a small rural community, they travel daily in unmarked cars, braving airstrikes, shelling and the threat of kidnapping to deliver food and other aid to needy Syrians — all of it paid for by the U.S. government.
The Washington Post, in the same article, even admits that most of the residents believe the flour is from Al Nusra, since it is Al Nusra passing out the bread it is made from:
The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States. But [local resident] Waisi credited Jabhat al-Nusra — a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda — with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.
Reading either the NYT article or the Washington Post piece separately would leave readers confused. Reading them together makes it clear that Al Nusra’s ability to create the groundwork for Al Qaeda’s upcoming “emirate” is owed entirely to the United States and its coalition allies, including Turkey.
Al Qaeda Exists Because it is Allowed, Even Encouraged to Do So…
Jubhat Al Nusra, a US State Department listed foreign terrorist organization, is considered one of the largest and most influential forces on the battlefield in Syria fighting Damascus, second only to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Stanford University in its report titled, “Mapping Militant Organizations: Jabhat al-Nusra,” admits that:
Al-Nusra is one of the best-equipped rebel groups in Syria…
…Second only to ISIS, al-Nusra attracts the most foreign fighters among rebel groups in the Syrian civil war. These fighters mostly come from the Middle East, but also from Chechnya and European states, with a smaller number from more distant countries like Australia and the United States.
Considering the immense resources admitted by the United States, the European Union, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar pledged to rebel groups in Syria, an alarming question arises when considering how much better equipped and funded Al Nusra appears to be. Where precisely are they getting more funding to be so much better equipped than rebel groups the US and its allies are pouring billions of dollars into? How is Al Nusra able to acquire more resources than the combined efforts of America, Europe and the Persian Gulf?
The answer is just as alarming. It is not a coincidence that the US has spent billions on training programs for rebel groups that do not exist and are not currently fighting on the Syrian battlefield. The money was truly spent, but not on “rebels.” Instead, the money, through Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, has gone straight into Al Nusra’s war chests, armories and administrative budgets. The proof stares the world in the face each day with headlines of Al Nusra’s spanning exploits amid Syria’s grinding war.
And as much has even been admitted.
Articles like the Independent’s, “Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria,” the New York Times’, “U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels,” and the BBC’s, “Arming Syrian rebels: Where the US went wrong,” add up to paint a stark picture of a United States and the coalition of allies it leads, intentionally building up Al Nusra and sustaining its occupation and entrenchment in Syria.
This groundwork, courtesy of the United States and its allies, is what Al Qaeda is building its “emirate” on.
Not an Episode of G.I. Joe…
No explanation is ever given as to how the fictional character, Cobra Commander, could supply the cartoon battlefield of the popular American cartoon, G.I. Joe, each week with a new army of fully equipped villains. No explanation is needed because it is a cartoon. However, for the New York Times, a prominent American newspaper, to announce Al Qaeda’s plans to “move” to Syria but give no explanation as to how they are doing so politically or financially, is further evidence of just how inconvenient the truth actually is.
Al Qaeda’s entire history since its inception in the 1980s to present day is a story of state-sponsored terrorism and proxy military campaigns. There is no possible means for Al Qaeda to have accomplished any of what it did without vast state-sponsorship behind it. And there is no possible way for it to do so today without vast state-sponsorship. This is why the New York Times refuses to ask difficult questions or quantify just what precisely is required to build Al Qaeda’s new “emirate” apparently overnight.
Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”