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Sat Aug 30, 2014, 07:09 PM

The Powers Behind The Islamic State, Saudi's and The Rest + Transcript Link

Last edited Sat Aug 30, 2014, 07:54 PM - Edit history (1)

The Powers Behind The Islamic State + Transcript Link

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed gives specific examples of how Saudi, Qatari, and American interests have supported the group formerly known as ISIS, and what the global community can do now to rein them in - August 25, 14


Dr. Nafeez Ahmed
is a bestselling author, investigative journalist and international security scholar. A regular Guardian contributor on the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises, he is the author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization and How to Save It, which inspired his documentary feature film, The Crisis of Civilization. His debut science fiction novel inspired by true events is ZERO POINT.

Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. We're continuing our coverage of the ongoing turmoil in Iraq. Now with the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State, the drums of war in Iraq are beating louder and louder in the mainstream press. I'm pleased to welcome our guest,

Nafeez Ahmed, to help us put things in perspective. Nafeez is a best-selling author, investigative journalist, and international security scholar who writes regularly for The Guardian. He has a new novel out called Zero Point, which he says anticipated the Iraq crisis that's going on right now. Thanks for joining us,


Jessica.DESVARIEUX: So, Nafeez, there's ISIL, there's ISIS, there's the Islamic State--IS some people are calling it. But they're all the same group, right? Can you sort of give us a sense of the evolution of this extremist group and how they get started?

AHMED: Well, the origins of the group come from militant groups affiliated to al-Qaeda that are operating in Iraq and Syria. And that's where it gets murky, because, as we know, these groups were kind of engaged in all kinds of militant activity fighting the Assad regime. They were also active in responding to U.S. occupation after the 2003 invasion. So there's a mix of different actors involved. So in Iraq we had elements of even the Ba'ath party and ex-Saddam supporters who were actually--according to many reports, they were being recruited by these al-Qaeda militants. And in Syria we had this increasing kind of--the borders of separation between the Iraqi troops and the Syria groups, it became increasingly much more porous, because they were fighting back and forth, they were crossing borders. And what makes it more murky is how these groups really became as kind of virulent and kind of influential as they have, which is really the kind of--you know, you follow the money. And you follow the money, we're looking at the involvement of the Gulf states, which have really empowered these groups over time and increased their ability to operate. They've increased their arms, logistical trading. So we've had the Saudis engaged in funding these groups in Syria.

DESVARIEUX: Do we have proof of this?AHMED: We have absolute proof. I mean, it's really a matter of public record. It's come out from--you've got a range of different forms of evidence, from documents produced by Westpoint military analysts to investigative reports by journalists on the ground writing for publications like The New York Times, Washington Post. So it's very clear. And we've had semiofficial and official confirmations from the CIA, from people in the State Department, other people in the Pentagon, even from British officials that have been involved in coordinating the Gulf states and supplying these kinds of virulent groups that we know are affiliated to al-Qaeda to basically topple Assad. And that's obviously had a direct blowback effect in Iraq, because these very same groups that were being supported are now streaming across the border, and they've now formed this kind of breakaway group, which is styled off as ISIS or ISIL or whatever and now have called themselves the Islamic State. And what makes it really more disturbing is, going deeper into that evidence of the role of the Saudis and the Qataris and Kuwait, which has been confirmed by various different sources, is really the way in which the U.S. and the U.K. have overseen that process. And that's something which isn't so much acknowledged in the mainstream, that actually Britain and the United States were involved in knowingly kind of facilitating the support to these groups, despite knowing their links to al-Qaeda calling back as early as 2009

.DESVARIEUX: Wow. How did they support these groups?AHMED: So we had--you must remember the big batch of files that was obtained by WikiLeaks from the private intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Stratfor.

DESVARIEUX: Yes.AHMED: So that batch of files contains some really interesting correspondence, including correspondence where some senior executives at Stratfor were describing meetings that they had had with senior Pentagon officials and senior U.S. army officials where those officials openly described how U.S. special forces and British special forces had been operating in Syria long before the kind of major, major civil unrest that kind of really broke out, and they had been operating in kind of supporting these groups. And it was very clearly stated by these officers at the time--and the emails are there, people can check them out, and I've written about them in some of my Guardian articles and some of my other articles elsewhere--that they quite explicitly said that this is about destabilizing the Assad regime from within. They had even explored the possibility of airstrikes on targets. But the favored policy was using these groups as a proxy force to destabilize Assad's regime.

DESVARIEUX: Remind us again: why do they want to destabilize Assad so badly?AHMED: So there's a lot of different kind of ways of looking at this, and I think it's difficult to kind of pinpoint which one is necessarily the most important one. But one of the ones that I focused on is the role that Assad has played in kind of cozying up to Russia, allowing Russia to kind of develop a foothold in the region. And that's kind of tied to this increasing pipeline geopolitics in the region. So you've got this interesting kind of geopolitical jockeying over pipelines running across Syria from this field that is a kind of disputed field that Iran has access to and also Qatar has access to. Now, the exact border of that field is a little bit disputed, and both Iran and Qatar have been trying to kickstart ways to get that field into production. The pipelines would cross Syria and they would basically, ideally, supply Europe. It's a very ambitious project. Some people have raised lots of questions about whether these projects are really just pipedreams, in a sense. You know, are they viable, really, given the politics of the region? And this kind of stuff has been going on for years. They've been discussing these kind of ideas. But there was definitely real efforts to get these projects kind of off the table. So Iran signed a memorandum with Syria. Qatar had been having real negotiations with Saudi and Turkey and other countries. So these were kind of two competing pipeline routes. And, obviously, the U.S. favored the one which would involve Qatar and it wasn't very happy with the one that involved Iran and kind of would favor Russia. The United States has for long time wanted to ensure that it kind of sidelines Russia and Iran in all of these various pipeline projects. So when Iran signed this kind of memorandum with Assad, that was kind of considered like a major kind of strategic setback, and something kind of needed to be done. And apart from that, there were also many other--there was generally other kind of geopolitical issues apart from the fact that Russia has a military base there. There's also issues such as the role that Assad has played in relation to the Middle East conflict, the support that they've provided to Hamas, their relationship with the Iranians, and that whole general thing. So there's this general perception of Syria being this part of the so-called axis of evil in a way. You know. So the whole pipeline thing kind of accelerated that fear, I think, and made them want to do something. And they had a lot of indications that with different crises that Syria is going through domestically--economic crisis, there was a widespread drought due to climate change that was accelerating--and we even have State Department cables, also leaked by WikiLeaks, where literally we have State Department officials talking about how there is going to be civil unrest in Syria very soon, very likely, because of food prices and the strain on food due to these droughts and due to the effect on farmers. So they knew something was going to kick off in Syria. They knew that there was going to be popular--kind of popular uprising of some kind. And it seems that they planned to kind of exploit that, to get some of these jihadist guys in there, hijack that movement, direct it in a way that they felt that they could control. But, of course, as we've seen, it's kind of gone out of control

.DESVARIEUX: It is out of control. And, I mean, I actually have been personally affected by some of this, because I shared on the program earlier than I lost my friend, Jim Foley. He was a journalist who was covering the Syrian conflict. And these men who beheaded him--let's not mince words here--they're not good guys. I mean, these are extremists, fanatics that are distorting Islam to rise to power. And there are going to be folks out there who are going to say, you know what, Nafeez, we need to figure out a way to stop these guys. You know, we're hearing more aggressive language by politicians saying that we--possibly even boots on the ground, things of that nature. So there's sort of this impulse to use aggression in order to combat some of this. What would you say to folks like that based on the context?

AHMED: Well, the first thing, I think that is very important to grasp: the role that our governments have played in fomenting the crisis that we see. The rise of ISIS was kind of predictable, and it's something that some analysts--analysts have warned about civil war in Iraq for years. I guess the accelerated nature of what we're seeing, most people haven't anticipated that, but it was predictable. And when we look at the way in which we've been funding some of these groups, it's kind of ironic that we have the very same people now calling for boots on the ground, calling for a response, are the same people that have been very loud in their support for arming some of the most virulent of elements of these rebel groups. And even though the Obama administration, for instance, has given a lot of lip service, saying that we only want to fund, you know, the kind of moderate rebels and so on and so forth--but the Obama administration has actively coordinated the financing that has come from the Gulf states to the very types of groups that they historically have always favored, which is the most virulent jihadist al-Qaeda affiliated organizations. So there is a contradiction here in what we're being told now and the way in which policymakers have kind of created this crisis and now not taken responsibility for this crisis. And there is an argument to be made, I think--and it's unclear to--you know, I wouldn't put this forward as a kind of a firm interpretation of what's happening, 'cause I think there are many different actors and many different interests at play, but if we look at some of the reports that we've had over the last few years of the plans for the region, there are certainly elements in the Pentagon of a neoconservative persuasion who have seen the rise of this kind of group in a way as a boon to reconfigure the Middle East. Now, the evidence for that comes from a range of quite credible sources. So one of the sources I looked at was a publicly available RAND report that was published a couple of years. It was commissioned by the U.S. army. And it was a kind of a thought piece. It was a policy briefing. It was looking at policy options for the United States in essentially reconfiguring the Middle East and exploring how to counter terrorism. But those policy options were pretty Machiavellian in some ways, very, very--I mean, obviously there were strategic calculations and the overarching objective, ostensibly, was countering terrorism. But what they proposed to do was very worrying. There were various there was a range of scenarios that were explored. One of them was divide-and-rule, openly talking about empowering Salafi jihadists to some extent in order to kind of weaken Iranian influence, openly talking about empowering, using the Gulf states, because they have access to the petroleum resources, so using them to kind of funnel support to these groups that would eventually create kind of like a vortex of intra-Muslim conflict that would get terrorists and extremists on different sides fighting each other, that would weaken all of them and allow U.S. interests and Israeli interests to kind of consolidate their own kind of security while these guys are fighting amongst themselves. So here we see, you know, when you have these kind of very shortsighted geopolitical kind of concepts about how to obtain a victory against counterterrorism, you can kind of see where it leads you up this really dangerous garden path, thinking that we're going to solve this problem by funding these groups. So if we look at what's happening now, look at how this funding has happened, and we look at the RAND reports, for example, you get a pretty clear indication that some of that policy seems to have been at play to some extent. How far it's gone and to what extent no one can know. It's speculation. But that's what worries me, that you've got this kind of hubris that we can do this, we know what we're doing. It's the same hubris that we saw with the neocons after 9/11, pre-Iraq War, post-Iraq War, the same hubris of running in to the Middle East, reconfiguring the region. You know, another piece of evidence that I thought was quite disturbing that I've written about the past was the 2005--these maps from 2005 in the arms Armed Forces Journal, where a senior adviser to the Pentagon responsible at that time for kind of future planning in kind of warfare was proposing that the Middle East be broken up along ethnic and religious lines to create a more peaceful Middle East. So again you see this thread of thinking which--again, it's imperial hubris, really, to think that--you know, whether it's kind of motivated by good reasons or not, it's the same kind of colonial mentality we saw with the British, that we'll go in, we'll redraw the borders, we'll kind of tame the savages. So I'm concerned that that's the kind of mentality that we've seen. So talking about military intervention and boots on the ground now in that context is very worrying, because are we seeing that our interests are actually being kind of merged with that kind of imperial hubris?

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. But, Nafeez, then what do we do? Because some people are saying, these groups are out of control, you're just going to get more chaos, more people are going to die. What do you do? In this situation, how do we handle this?



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Reply The Powers Behind The Islamic State, Saudi's and The Rest + Transcript Link (Original post)
KoKo Aug 2014 OP
niyad Aug 2014 #1
Diclotican Aug 2014 #2
KoKo Aug 2014 #3
Diclotican Aug 2014 #4
CJCRANE Aug 2014 #5
PeoViejo Aug 2014 #6

Response to KoKo (Original post)

Sat Aug 30, 2014, 07:10 PM

1. why is this not surprising?

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Response to KoKo (Original post)

Sat Aug 30, 2014, 07:47 PM

2. KoKo


I said this - over a decade ago - that the Saudi-Arabian royal family (who yield most of the power in the country) was playing both ways when they was supporting this groups - ISIS and IS i just one of the latest groups to be founded - and given ample help from Saudi-Arabia - and from other states in the persian gulf - UAE and so one... This was before Iraq was attracted by US and Uk forces - and right after Al-Qauda had blown up WTC and the rest...

I was told by numerous persons who was in the know I was stupid - and had no clue what so ever what I'm talking about... They was so much smarter than me - that I should stick to what I know - and that wat nothing at all - and let the "grownups" understand how things really work around the world.... I even was told to get studying - as one of them believed Saudi-Arabia to be one "Our" best allied in the region - and that would never financier groups like Al-Qauda.... or worse groups like IS

I guess I was right then - and right now - when I state rather loud - the fact that Saudi-Arabia had a finger in the groups foundations - as a proxy for its goal in the middle east - and also in the greater world... Saudi-Arabia is a country founded on a rather extreme expression of Islam - the Wabbit-sect who even the two large "schools" in the Islams cleric education have problems understanding - or to accept as part of Islam - but thanks to the Saudi-Arabian oil wealth - and the money therein - and also as the kings duty as "defender" of the two most holly places in the Islamic faith - make them a powerfully player and shaker in how Islam is ruled - and also who is getting the support or not.... And even if the official Saudi-Arabian country do not support extremists - it is not exactly a secret that parts of the royal family - on their own have given a lot of money to organizations - who surly give aid to extremism... In the first couple of mounts after 9/11 2001 - a princess of the Saudi-Arabian royal family was cough in Germany - with more than 6 million dollar she could not explain what she should use it for - and it was also rumored - that the Princess was on a trip for founding extremism groups in Europe - found some of the more extremist groups in France and UK - by the millions -but thanks to the facts the German intelligence systems was able to track her down - she and the group she was traveling with was first put in house arrest at a opulent hotel - and then after a while - when she hide under diplomatic immunity - was showed the door - and asked never to travel back to Germany - or for that matter to any member state of EU.... Something that made some ruckus with the saudi-arabian ambassador - but I guess the germans show the ambassador some evidence - enough to tell them - that they should be lucky Germany was not making it more loudly than they did... And in the years after that incident - many diplomatic groups from Saudi-Arabia have been cough founding groups who is rather fundamentalist - and extreme all over the european continent... The Saudi-Arabian State even tried to bride Norwegian authorities to build a grand Mosque in Tromsų - as the norther st Mosque in the world - Public servants in Norway was not taking that bribe - and the lack of public support in Tromsų also made it impossible for anyone to build it and it was shelved for the time beeing....


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Response to Diclotican (Reply #2)

Sat Aug 30, 2014, 08:26 PM

3. Thanks for sharing that, Diclotican

There is so much about Saudi's that we know of from the Bush Connection years. That huge family has its hands in many pots and if their funding of terrorist groups (under guise of Freedom Fighters or "Arab Spring" participation along with US/GB/France's interests it would be a start to "cleaning the house" before we end up in the "endless war" that General Martin Dempsey predicted in a Press Conference over a week ago with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. They were preparing us for "endless war" against ISIS...and endless funding of that endless war. Building it up that we'd all be under threat by ISIS...just like they did with SADDAM & WMD.

I remember a little something in BBC News (I think it was BBC) about that Saudi Princess but most news about the Saudi's influence here in USA got shoved to the background after the "9/11 Report" where so much was redacted in the report about the Saudi's that will probably never be revealed.

The Saudi connections drips, drips, drips...a bit at a time.

We have to hope.. Again, thanks for sharing!

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Response to KoKo (Reply #3)

Sat Aug 30, 2014, 09:05 PM

4. KoKo

Last edited Sat Aug 30, 2014, 10:04 PM - Edit history (1)


Saudi-Arabians is indeed a country who play both ways at the same time - and a lot of it come fro the Bush years - but it was known at least from the 1990s that Saudi-Arabia had given money - by the millions to groups who was extreme it its ways - and it was with some merits - it was proven in 2004 - when Saudi-Arabia was been attack by an group who was part of Al-Qauda - after denying paying more "Ransom" to the group - as part of the way to safeguards Saudi-Arabian interest in the region - The Al-Qauda had since 1991 when the Iraq-Kuwait war was going on - been paid a lot of money each year - to not attack Saudi-Arabian interest - and more to the point Westerners who was in Saudi-Arabia working on its oil fields - them self was rather not interesting in doing the grout work - it was more easy to let "others" lesser people do the manual jobs - and let the saudi-arabians sit on the top... And many western ex-pat lived in Saudi-Arabia - or in other parts of the UAE - and was paid rather handsomely for their job - even if the population in SA was starting to be rather in deferent - or in some cases - starting to be angry about the Westerners who was working on all the programs and installations them self was not inter sting of doing - or in many cases do not had the education to do them self - specially after 9/11 many expiates from Europe and US experienced a lesser friendly tone from the population - and in many cases it was starting to be so dangerous - that the families of the ex pats who was living in Saudi-Arabia had to leave to their own countries - as it as to big a risk for them to live in Saudi-Arabia - it this was a matter of fact - even before 9/11 2001... After it was blowing up really fast - and many discovered that their friends turned 180 on them - and was suddenly not talking outside of their job anymore... Even a large salary do not make up for that... and many ex-pats was therefore finding other - more satiable places to work, either in UAE - or in other places of the world - where the populations was less dangerous to live with....

ISIS or IS is a mess - a dangerous mess - who for the most part spring up from the fact that regimes in the area have for decades - been paying groups to do their own dirty jobs - things that the current states could not do - or was afraid of doing - groups like ISIS and the IS State is the result of all this - it was not helping when US attached Iraq - and more or less destroyed that country - with an incompetence I am sure people will write big books about even after a century or two - mostly because they did all the wrong things - at the same time - it was a complete failure from the start to the end - and the end result is a country who is divided by ethnically - political and religious lines - who we who was against the Iraq War warned against - again, and again - and then again... And was told we had no clue about how things really was in the real war - or that we was supporters of the Saddam regime - something I believe most of was not - even if we had brain enough to not fall for that silly war... And Sadly enough - we was in the clear - we was far more in the know than the Bush administration ever was....

And it would be very vice for us - in the western world - to first clean our own house - and then do the right thing when it came to ISIS - or IS as they want to be named now - and to punish the ones who for decades have helped this groups to flourish - and to win so much power - if we had frozen all of the money the royal family of Saudi-Arabia had in Western banks alone - we would have been able to paid for most of that "cleaning up the house" in Iraq, Syria and the middle east as it is in the billions worth of money - the saudi-arabian have in western banks - billions who they have stolen from their own people over many decades - and who should have been used to make their future better than the past.... and I guess - if the Saudi-Arabian royal family -and the other royal households of the UAE had lost their fortunes in the West - (after all they are happy about their interest rates in Western banks) they might had to leave their shiny city's and their marvelous lifestyles - with all the bling and blang - and big private jets - to a more modest living where they had to explain them self to a population who is young - poor and angry - and who is more or less supported 100 percent by the oil revenues alone as most of the countries there are not exactly powerhouses when it come to industry... rather the opposite...

As my dad once told me - he had been a sailor back in the 1950s - they was a rag-tag nation back then - and will possible be that when the oil is no longer there - then they would just go back to their camels - and ride into the desert and doing what they have been doing for centuries - their great city's will just disappear in the desert - and in a century or two - the silliness would be all to se... I'm not sure if he is right on the cue there - but I guess he was a smarter man than I was

It was BBC world who break the news about the saudi-arabian princess - who got arrested with 6 million dollar on her - who she could not explain what was about - but I guess compared to in Europe - the US was kind of left out of the news - mostly because US was all about 9/11 2001 - and not to say the bloodthirsty for going to a war with Iraq... And i am also sure - if the whole 9/11 report had been given a full disclose - the Saudi-Arabians would have been in a lot hotter water then it was - specially as it was rather known - that S.A was a country who had given a few millions now and then to exactly the type of groups who had attacked US... And where most of the Bin Laden family who was in US was collected - and mysterious enough vanished from the US - at a time when most aircrafts was not allowed to fly at all...

The connection between SAUDI-ARABIA and the extremist is clearer now than it was back then - but if even I was able to see the connection back in the early 200s - then smarter men than me should have seen the connection...


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Response to KoKo (Original post)

Sun Aug 31, 2014, 04:27 AM

5. Cut the purse strings.

Cut the puppet strings.

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Response to KoKo (Original post)

Sun Aug 31, 2014, 09:16 AM

6. Saudis will not fight ISIS themselves.


They would never pit their troops against their Sunni Brothers.

The Saudi Royals think that Money makes them smart, but without it, they would still be tending Goats and robbing Pilgrims.

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