‘US-led airstrikes – great recruiting tool to provide ISIS with cannon fodder’
RT:A seniorKurdish leaderis saying the CIA is underestimating the number of ISIS fighters, and they in fact number in their hundreds of thousands. If so, what will it take to defeat them?
Dan Glazebrook: I think to defeat them would really require a serious alliance. There is already an existing alliance, which is putting up an amazing job of defending Syria in particular against the forces of ISIS [now the Islamic State or IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] and the other forces that have been backed by the West in its regime change attempt over the last three and a half years. And that alliance consists of the Syrian government, the Iranian government, Russia providing diplomatic support, and Hezbollah on the ground as well. This alliance has blown everybody’s minds in terms how it has managed to stave off an attack, [which has] had the backing and support of the US, Britain, Australia, [and most of the world’s leading] military powers. Yet, it has managed to stave off defeat. This is the alliance that has been doing the work of holding back the forces of ISIS. One thing would help is if the West stopped effectively supporting ISIS. Although, they are officially at war against ISIS at the moment, their policy of destabilization of Syria, which has led to the growth of ISIS over the past two years, continues. Their policy is still to remove Assad. There was talk a week or two ago from the US that removing Assad will be a necessary preliminary step to defeating ISIS, which is nonsensical comment. But it does show the position they are coming from.
The US Congress passed a motion to support with $500 million the training for more soldiers to go and destabilize Syria to fight against the Syrian government to add to the growing list of soldiers, police and civilians that are killed by this insurrection daily. And to train them in Saudi Arabia which is the birth place of the ISIS-type violent sectarian ideology. What will be very helpful if the West was serious about defeating ISIS would be to stop providing it with effective support that is through the policy of destabilization of Syria. Of course that is not going to happen because the West still has this policy and it is not interested in defeating ISIS. ISIS is a key plank in their policy of destabilization. But this would be from the point of view what the West should be doing. If they were serious they would stop supporting ISIS and stopped destabilizing Syria.
RT:Do you think the claims will lead to any change in Western tactics?
DG: No, I don’t believe so. I am not even convinced that was such a surprise or shock to the West. They would have an interest to downplay the number of soldiers in ISIS in order to justify the idea - which was also nonsensical to begin with - that ISIS could be defeated by airstrikes alone. Now the truth is starting to come out but that is kind of the horses are already bolted. The airstrikes are already well on the way. The US is already bombing Syria, the US and Britain are already bombing Iraq, and now it is just increasingly apparent with these new figures of how many ISIS fighters there are. It is now becoming increasingly apparent that the air strikes will not help to defeat them in any way.
RT:Several days ago America's top military officer General Martin Dempsey said Washington is considering sending combat troops to Iraq. Will the US be spurred or deterred by these new figures?
DG: No, the decision whether or not they are going to send ground troops is going to be based on their long-term strategy of how they are going to deal with the fact that their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation did not lead to the kind of puppet-regime that perhaps they were hoping for. In fact even the leader that they helped to install – [former Iraqi PM] Maliki – has actually more or less disavowed the US. And the US dictate refused to sign a new deal to allow further occupation of his country in 2011, moved to closer ties with Iran, refused to support their policy in Syria and so on. Really the strategies are all about how to prevent Iraq reemerging as a powerful, independent state. And even their occupation failed to do this. These are the kind of things that shape their strategy towards Iraq and Syria, and the issue of the Islamic State is a tool against independent governance like Iraq and Syria that has been used and abused by British and American governments in the last few years. They will continue to do that. If they have ground troops in Iraq and if they have an increasing military presence there, that will help to coordinate the kind of groups like ISIS that they have been supporting. Not necessarily directly. Obviously ISIS is not in a direct US chain of command as far as we know. But in the sense of military operations to direct them in certain areas, keep them away from certain strategically important areas; direct them in other areas that they do want to destabilize, direct even more towards Syria away from Kurdish areas, and so on, and so forth.
RT:How has ISIS managed to become such a huge force in such a short time?
DG: There are a number of things that have an answer to that question. First thing you have to understand is that there has been a huge project to support groups like ISIS that goes back to even before the Syrian uprising. The key article to read is Seymour Hersh’s investigation called “The Redirection” where he outlines a very specific strategy in 2007 by Bandar of Saudi Arabia, Dick Cheney, and other neocons in the US government at that time to build up a number of paramilitary forces specifically to take on Syria in particular. Also through that to take on the strength of Hezbollah, Iran as well, and the Shiites within Iraq. This strategy involved funding the most violent a kind of sectarian chauvinist groups that could be found in the Sunni community. And there is likely to be billions spent on this project. We have seen that the ISIS is the richest terrorist group in the world - several billion dollars at its disposal. This can’t be isolated from the fact that there have been billions of dollars of US cash that went missing in Iraq several years ago, there was a huge scandal, can’t be isolated from the fact that over $400 million of equipment went missing in Afghanistan from the US around this time last year.
That is a big part of the picture of the story of how ISIS became so powerful. Another important part is that now these airstrikes have begun, that is excellent recruiting to provide the cannon fodder for ISIS because for the past three years it has been difficult for ISIS and these groups to pose as being anti-West. They have been so obviously on the same side as the West. Radicalized Muslims in western countries and elsewhere in the world see the West is to be a big problem that they want to fight against. Now suddenly with this airstrikes they can see ISIS as something that is going to help them to fight against the West. ISIS is not particularly against the West, everything that it is doing is precisely in line with what the West’s program and strategy for the region is which is why they were funding them for so long effectively through the Saudi and Qatar proxies. That is the two aspects of this. This is a part of the long-term US and British strategy, and secondly, now they have got this great recruiting tool that they are posing as anti-Western fighters fighting against Western infidels and so on. It is not true but it is a great recruiting tool. In fact the airstrikes have served probably to increase the strength of ISIS more than to undermine it by giving this kind of shot in the arm in terms of credibility that they were lacking before.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.