I recently returned from the Terrorism and Religious Extremism Conference in Damascus. While there, I had the opportunity to meet with Syrian militia leaders. What they had to tell me and show me confirmed some of my suspicions. I already knew that the United States had trained at least 3000 ISIS “cadre” leaders at camps in Jordan. Colonel Jim Hanke US Army Special Forces (ret) had accompanied me and spoke of this during the conference.
However, the militia leaders brought evidence. They had photographed not only ISIS dead but their identity papers as well. One group of 74 killed in fighting near Kobani included 15 Ukrainians and 8 Chechens. Others included fighters from Saudi Arabia, Yemen but the rest were from North Africa. There was no gloating over the dead despite the fact the exchange took place in a restaurant at the Damas Rose, a government owned hotel in Syria. There was a sadness, a solemnity about this as even ISIS dead, reputed to be mass murderers, looked no different than others, all young, bearded though many distinctly European.
What was surprising was the lack of curiosity as to how any of these fighters had gotten into Syria in the first place. I had travelled through Lebanon, was picked up by security at the airport and, on the way to Damascus, stopped many times at military checkpoints and subjected to 4 hours of background checks at remote border crossings. Even inside Syria it took hours to get clearance despite carrying a letter from the Minister of Justice.
Simply put, jihadists don’t just walk through Lebanon. This leaves only two possibilities, they travel through Turkey, something more than obvious or they receive transit across Israel. A cursory examination of the geography of the region leaves only two other remote possibilities. One is that they manage to cross the Red Sea like Moses or they are flown in somehow, magically passing through airport security checkpoints all overseen by Interpol, America’s Department of Homeland Security and NATO financed security forces.
It is assumed that any Islamic male, traveling alone or with others, in transit toward Iraq or Syria, is a terrorist. I was certainly questioned several times. One could only assume that perhaps planes the CIA had used to transport narcotics or torture victims had been “retasked” for the purpose of bringing terrorists into Syria and Iraq. There are certainly reports of unmarked planes flying in and out of Mosul despite the fact that American fighter/interceptors maintain what they claim is a “stranglehold” on airspace in the region.
Syrian officials informally voice their own suspicions about ISIS. Though not publicly spoken of, they are of the opinion that American and Israeli advisors are serving with ISIS. Based on an analysis of ISIS tactical capabilities and their apparent access to secure communications, easily jammed by the US if they wished, such beliefs are not without foundation. Simply put, not everyone can operate complex American built mobile artillery pieces or armoured vehicles. ISIS seems to have no problem with this or any difficulty acquiring Stinger missiles to shoot down aircraft as well.
It is claimed that these missiles move from Libya, through Sinai and somehow magically jump over Israel. Oddly, none seemed to make their way into Gaza as evidenced during last summer’s Israeli air assault.
One key area of what appears to be tacit cooperation between the “Islamic State” and NATO, namely Turkey, is seen in the looting of Syria. As with Lebanon, Turkey maintains well defended borders. However, there is more than adequate proof that whenever ISIS moves into an area of Syria or even Iraq, the Turks aren’t far behind. Like locusts, streams of heavy trucks, engineers, equipment movers join ISIS, stealing everything of value and moving it past the border into Turkey, a border that refugees spend days waiting to pass. However, a hundred heavy trucks carrying away a Syrian automobile assembly plant is able to negotiate the Turkish border without a hiccup.
Similarly, entire banks, cash, computers systems, vault and all have made the trip into Turkey followed by endless antiquities that find their way into the auction houses of London, New York and Paris. Unless ISIS is infected with an altruistic love of all things Turkish, it is reasonable to assume they are in it together, sharing the spoils. As ISIS is a “named terror organization” by both the US and EU, any individual or organization that is involved either directly or indirectly, no matter through how many hands, in commerce is guilty of “material support of terrorism.” For a state, such as Turkey, such violations necessitate sanctions. For an individual, be they a London art dealer or German machine tool broker, typical punishment should involve rendition, torture and gulag imprisonment.
Instead, American and European war profiteers openly trade with ISIS, no fear of sanctions or the all-powerful Office of Foreign Asset Control getting involved. The “fix” is obviously in, looted cities, looted museums, looted banks, all to be shared as long as politicians get their cut.
To say that there is something strange about ISIS is perhaps the understatement of all time. Can we call them “The Not Very Islamic State?” What they seem to have is friends, people who give them intelligence help, satellite photos, people who train them to operate complex American weapons, people who shepherd their personnel around like diplomats. What they also have are business partners, partners who are clearly above the law. Who has that kind of influence?
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”