A trial in London involving Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, has collapsed after details emerged that linked British and US intelligence services to ISIS.
The prosecution were forced to abandon the case in order to avoid “embarrassment” to the intelligence services.
Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much. But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases. Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva convention.
But terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny – and allies are enemies – often at the bewildering whim of a western policymaker’s conference call.
For the past year, the US, British and other western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying the hyper-sectarian terror group ISIL (formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq). This was after ISIL overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.
Last month, ISIL rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now nonexistent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra. Al-Qaeda’s official franchise, the Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.
Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes. Privately, officials say they don’t want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Sunni allies in the Persian Gulf.
A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaeda-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaeda in Iraq (which became ISIL) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Persian Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.
American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria
Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.