​And the winner of the Jihad World Cup is…

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
The US-assembled coalition of the willing that – supposedly – is fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh across “Syraq” met in Paris this week. In theory, they’d examine what to do next after the loss of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria.

The script, though, came straight from the Surrealist Manifesto.

The US State Department’s number two, Tony Blinken, swore Washington does not doubt its “winning” strategy. He insisted that the “winning” strategy has killed at least 10,000 fake Caliphate jihadists. A chorus of CIA spooks was forced to raise their eyebrows.

Blinken also insisted on “progress”; he might have confused the issue with the FBI nailing FIFA bigwigs. The coalition, predictably, supported Baghdad – with plenty of rhetoric and a vague promise of more weapons, and extolled the government to be more inclusive towards Sunni tribes.

No one addressed the fact that it is a Ba’athist support base among Sunnis – call them, Donald Rumsfeld-style, “remnants” of the Saddam regime – that has ensured the fake Caliphate’s success in Anbar province. And that’s what prevents Baghdad from being more inclusive.

The coalition, also predictably, barely mentioned Syria. There is absolutely no ideological/religious difference between Jabhat al-Nusra – al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria – and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And yet Qatar and Turkey are totally in bed with al-Nusra, while suggesting they are opposing the fake Caliphate.

The fiction remains that the coalition is supporting remaining “moderate rebels” of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). There are no “moderate” rebels left; they all migrated to al-Nusra or ISIS/ISIL/Daesh because that’s where the action is – from tons of weapons to actual military prowess on the ground.

And then there’s Jaish al-Fatah - the Army of Conquest; a fabulous newspeak concoction that veils the fact the “progressive” West – in tandem with the proverbial Gulf petro-monarchy vassals - showers al-Nusra with weapons and cash. The Army of Conquest is in effect a hazy collective of takfiri outfits which include Jabhat al-Nusra; whatever “alliances” exist among them dissolve non-stop in the desert sands.

It gets nastier when we know that Doha – via al-Jazeera Arabic – now poses as an official sponsor of al-Nusra, inviting their leaders on air, and trying hard to erect a (virtually non-existent) barrier between al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. In one of these interviews, al-Nusra made it clear; the West won’t be attacked, al-Qaeda-style, as long as their outfit keeps being weaponized and showered with US dollars and euros. Their “mission” in Syria remains regime change; exactly what Doha, Ankara, Riyadh, Tel Aviv and – for that matter – Washington want.

Al-Qaeda as the new normal

Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet linked to a video showing the Turkish spy agency MIT weaponizing al-Qaeda in Syria by the truckload.

And this while Ankara persists in the fiction it is training “moderates” to fight against the fake Caliphate. Nonsense; once again, there are no “moderates” left, only takfiri outfits. The minute the “moderates” cross the Turkey-Syria border, they become takfiri.

Meanwhile ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is steadily advancing towards Aleppo, trying to capture villages northeast of the city. Needless to add, the coalition is just a spectator. What makes it even more absurd is that a series of opposition groups who refuse to be labeled takfiris – like the Syrian Revolutionaries or the Levant Front – but are fighting along the takfiris, have asked the Pentagon to bomb the Caliph’s goons, to no avail.

So while the Pentagon complains of running out of targets and at the same time is incapable of bombing jihadi columns in the open desert, and while the suits talk in Paris, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is about to conquer an extremely strategic area from northern Aleppo all the way to the Turkish border.

If that happens, everyone – from Assad’s troops to supposedly “moderate” rebels - will be cut off.

One “moderate” outfit, the al-Izz Front, is about to exit the coalition. Their leader, Mustafa Sijari, made an extraordinary claim; he allegedly was ordered by the Pentagon to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and forget about Damascus. Assuming this is true, that’s yet another proof the Pentagon is acting like a bystander – as in let Arabs kill Arabs, whichever way they want and whatever they believe in.

As for Washington’s “strategy”, there’s no strategy; the foreign policy advisers of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration are a joke.

Pro-administration factions in the Beltway argue Washington cannot alienate Tehran by attacking Damascus, because the US needs Iranian support – via an array of Shi’ite militias – to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Iraq. And yet, in Syria, the US counts on those elusive “moderates” not only to fight the fake Caliphate but also to inflict harm on Damascus.

One can already start counting the multiple permutations of blowback out of this murky scenario. The Empire of Chaos excels in fomenting – what else - chaos; as for the resulting destruction, it’s up to the locals to bear the burden, while the Empire watches in the sidelines.

It’s always important to remember sectarian tribal militias at loose in Iraq – and then, years later, in Syria -, that was a direct consequence of the Made in USA “policy” of Divide and Rule, set in motion after the initial destruction of the Iraqi state.

The bottom line: chaos will continue to prevail. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh will keep advancing in Syria, immune to Pentagon firepower; but may be effectively counter-attacked in Iraq, thanks to Shi’ite militias, and not Pentagon firepower. This is what the State Department defines as a “winning strategy.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.