Former U.S. Official: Al-Qaeda In Syria Is “An Asset” For U.S. Strategy

3 April 2021 — Moon of Alabama

There is a new public relation campaign pushed by Turkey to whitewash al-Qaeda in Syria. ‘Western’ journalists were invited to Idleb governorate through some Turkish agency to make some fan flicks about Hayat Tahrir al Sham, the al-Qaeda entity under Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, which rules in Idelb.

The U.S. Public Broadcasting Service send a crew for the gig and scored an interview with Jolani himself:

In his first interview with an American journalist, Jolani told FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith that his role in fighting Assad and ISIS, and in controlling an area with millions of displaced Syrians who could potentially become refugees, reflected common interests with the United States and the West.

Jolani told Smith that his group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, posed no threat to the United States, and the government should remove him from its list of designated terrorists.

“First and foremost, this region does not represent a threat to the security of Europe and America,” Jolani told Smith. “This region is not a staging ground for executing foreign jihad.”

There is of course no reason to believe such nonsense:

Aaron Y. Zelin, whose research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy focuses on jihadi groups in North Africa and Syria, told Smith that it’s hard to know what Jolani’s intentions are “because he has been a chameleon.” Zelin said in an interview conducted March 8, “How can you necessarily trust somebody that’s just trying to survive and continue to remain in power, because that’s the only way he can?”

Still – PBS is whitewashing the guy. Just see this passage:

Since the start of the conflict in Syria a decade ago, the Assad regime’s forces and ISIS have conducted large-scale human rights abuses. The Assad regime’s actions, Jolani told Smith, fit the definition of terrorism because it was “killing innocent people, children, poor people, women.”

Human rights organizations have also documented violations by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, from indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas to arbitrary arrests.

“Arbitrary arrests” seems mild when compared to “large-scale human rights abuses”. That is until you learn form recent news how Hayat Tahrir al Sham really rules:

Three women and one man were stoned to death in Idlib, northwestern Syria, on Monday, on the orders of Islamist militant group Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).

According to sources close to HTS, who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic language service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the individuals executed were charged with “adultery” and “attempted murder”.

They were brutally executed in the city centre and the sentence was carried out by the security apparatuses, sources said.

But the U.S. government and its media never had trouble to ally with entities who commit such crimes. They are in fact often seen them as valuable tools. Foremer U.S. officials no problem with admitting that:

James Jeffrey, who served as a U.S. ambassador under both Republican and Democrat administrations and most recently as special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS during the Trump administration, told Smith that Jolani’s organization was “an asset” to America’s strategy in Idlib.

Is Jeffrey now in breach of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act?

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (Pub.L. 97–200, 50 U.S.C. §§ 421–426) is a United States federal law that makes it a federal crime for those with access to classified information, or those who systematically seek to identify and expose covert agents and have reason to believe that it will harm the foreign intelligence activities of the U.S.

Probably not. The law protects only covered agents and it has long been obvious that Jolani and his group were working in U.S. interests.

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