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July 17, 2012: the Day America Exited the 9/11 Era…By Entering an Alliance with al Qaeda
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I note with interest that Thomas Friedman, the premier moral imbecile of American journalism, is spitballing the idea of using ISIS to roll back Iran.

Friedman is still an outlier. The moderate voice in hawkish Middle East policy today, on the other hand, belongs to analysts calling for supporting al Qaeda as the preferred US asset against Iran and, for that matter, ISIS.

This marks a sea change in American Middle East public punditry and a sign that the United States has moved beyond the 9/11 era, in which our national policy and indeed our national identity was largely defined by getting those AQ bad guys who had knocked down the World Trade Center, blown a hole in the Pentagon, and killed over 3000 Americans on a single day in 2001.

Now, the oppose-Iran obsession has resumed center stage, at least for the Beltway-friendly commentariat, and al Qaeda is seen as a suitable and acceptable partner, especially since the current Sunni extremist champion, ISIS, is enduring an ass-kicking at the hands and boots of the Iraq government, Shi’ite militias, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard units.

It is sobering to consider that the United States has done less to un-f*ck-up the Middle East in 14 years than Iran has been able to accomplish in a few months of campaigning in eastern Iraq. Another sign, if anybody is paying attention, that Iran is the least dysfunctional polity and partial democracy in the Middle East, while Uncle Sam is trapped driving in circles in a clown car fighting for the wheel with Saudi Arabian autocrats and Israeli apartheidists.

No wonder President Obama wants rapprochement with Iran and a quick pivot outta here to the peaceful and prosperous precincts of Asia. Good luck with that!

As to the odious al Qaeda alliance, the bad news is that it is more than the fever dream of frustrated Beltway analysts.

The de facto US-AQ alliance has been going on in Syria for almost three years.

In fact, I think I can put a date on its formal unveiling: July 17, 2012, the day the US, Europe, Turkey, and the GCC optimistically thought they could wrap up the Syria crisis in a few weeks with a well-timed campaign of terror and insurrection starting in Damascus.

Recently, a Beirut based newspaper, As-Safir, published a report on the July 2012 bombing (not aerial bombing, a C4 boobytrap) that wiped out Bashar al-Assad’s “security cell” a.k.a. his national security team during their daily strategy session in Damascus.

As translated by an outfit called Mideastwire, As-Safir claims the bombing was a decapitation strike as part of an elaborately choreographed scheme by the U.S. to collapse the Syrian government and military and smooth the way for a drive on Damascus by the Free Syrian Army and the elevation of defecting general Manaf Tlass (who possessed limited capacities beyond a firm jaw well suited to Churchillian cigar-clenching but was adored by the French, perhaps because his socialite sister had allegedly been the mistress of a French foreign minister) to the presidency.

Why should we care? With the cataract of blood and rubble and anguish that has hurtled into the Syrian abyss since then, why should we care that three of Assad’s henchman got blown up in July 2012?

Because a) the aftermath of the attack revealed the essential robustness of the Syrian regime and command structure and apparently convinced President Obama that strategies predicated on quick regime collapse either by covert action or indignant rhetoric were unlikely to remove Assad from his perch; b) Assad’s view of Western/GCC negotiating sincerity was probably tempered by the awareness that they had tried to murder him ; and c) the helter-skelter scheme revealed for the first time the presence of armed extremists under the Al Qaeda banner as US auxiliaries.

I am inclined to believe As-Safir, apparently a lefty, Syria-friendly outfit with a large circulation, because shortly after the bombing I drew the same conclusion,immortalized in my July 28, 2012 piece for Asia Times Online:

[A] funny thing happened last week. The Assad regime didn’t collapse, despite an orchestrated, nation-wide assault (coordinated, we can assume, by the crack strategists of the international anti-Assad coalition): a decapitating terrorist bombing in the national security directorate, near-simultaneous armed uprisings in the main regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo, and the seizure of many of Syria’s official border crossings with Iraq and Turkey.

Points 1 and 2 are covered in the As-Safir article, which apparently draws on tittle-tattle from a French diplomat. As to the third point, seizure of the border crossings, in July 2012 I wrote (refer to my ATOl article for the links):

Juan Cole of the University of Michigan laid out the big picture strategic thinking behind some of the border seizures on his blog, Informed Comment:

If the FSA can take the third crossing from Iraq, at Walid, they can control truck traffic into Syria from Iraq, starving the regime. The border is long and porous, but big trucks need metalled roads, which are few and go through the checkpoints. Some 70% of goods coming into Syria were coming from Iraq, because Europe cut off trade with the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad. The rebels are increasingly in a position to block that trade or direct it to their strongholds.

According to an Iraqi deputy minister of the interior, the units that seized the border were perhaps not the goodwill ambassadors that the Syrian opposition or Dr Cole might have hoped for:

The top official said Iraqi border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border outpost, detain a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs.

“Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers.”

They reportedly also raised the al-Qaeda flag.

The forces participating in the operation at the Turkish border crossings were also an interesting bunch – and certainly not all local Syrian insurgents, as AFP reported:

By Saturday evening, a group of some 150 foreign fighters describing themselves as Islamists had taken control of the post.

These fighters were not at the site on Friday, when rebel fighters captured the post.

Some of the fighters said they belonged to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), while others claimed allegiance to the Shura Taliban. They were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket launchers and improvised mines.

The fighters identified themselves as coming from a number of countries: Algeria, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates – and the Russian republic of Chechnya…

Nice to remember that Juan Cole, who embarrassed himself mightily by cheerleading the Libyan debacle, also applied his mad analytic and tactical skillz to the Syrian fiasco.

Anyway, the appearance of armed Islamist extremists as part of a meticulously if not particularly intelligently planned regime change gambit in 2012: that’s what matters today.

Because even after the decapitation & collapse strategy failed, the extremists stayed, presumably as executors of an open-ended “success is not an option” “bleed Syria (and Iran)” strategy funded by Gulf interests, supported by Turkish infrastructure, and condoned by the United States.

And bleed Syria did.


The result is a butcher’s bill of nearly one quarter of a million dead and 3.5 million refugees, over 90% incurred after the domestic insurrection failed in February 2012 and the combined genius of the Western, Arab, and Turkish worlds was turned to engineering regime change via external means.

As the sage said, success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. So it is reprehensible but not too surprising that the Syrian horror is now described in the ultimate hands-off passive voice fashion as “a tragedy” and not “the knowing murder of hundreds of thousands and the immiserating of millions by the funding, supply, facilitation, and diplomatic support of thousands of paramilitaries by the United States, European states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now Israel (which is now providing medical facilities to wounded AQ fighters at the Syrian border)”.

It is also darkly amusing that the worse IS does, the more pre-emptive squealing one hears from the West about the as yet unmaterialized threat of massive human rights violations against Sunnis by Shi’a forces in areas recovered from IS.

And, to cap it, you get chin-stroking in the press about common cause with AQ and/or ISIS to stop the Iranian menace.

Which reminds me of the final indispensable element in regime-change choreography: credulous, vociferous, enabling media.

According to as-Safir, it was clear at the early July 2012 Friends of Syria conference in Paris that something was afoot:

When a French diplomat stopped two journalists, a French and an Arab, in early July 2012, near a café adjacent to the French foreign ministry, the lights of the Friends of Syria conference had grown dim at the conference center following two exhausting days of debate that provided the impression to the meeting participants that the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now a fait accompli.

…[T]he diplomat revealed what he had in mind and advised the journalists to slow down with their packing because a major event was going to take place in July. The bets to topple Al-Assad in Paris and between the “Friends of Syria” had turned into a mere matter of time.

I will be charitable and say, despite these manifest signs (and, for that matter, the fact that an externally choreographed regime change jamboree was under way was apparent even to an outside observer like me), it was not clear to the legion of Western journos covering Syria that they were getting played as part of some PR charade whose primary purpose was to stampede Russian into abandoning Assad and supporting a UNSC resolution condemning him, preferably with an Article 7 stinger approving the use of force, thereby enabling transition to the West/GCC-backed opposition.

At the New York Times, Neil McFarquar (with considerable assistance: “Reporting was contributed by Dalal Mawad and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Rick Gladstone from New York, Ellen Barry from Moscow, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt from Washington, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.”) asked if the death knell was being sounded for Assad’s regime:

The impact of the day’s events reverberated on multiple levels, piercing the psychological advantage that Mr. Assad’s superior military strength has provided in preserving the loyalty of his forces and frightening much of the public into staying home. With the opposition energized and the government demoralized, analysts wondered if other military units and trusted lieutenants would be more inclined to switch sides — and if the government would retaliate with an escalation of violence.

The idea that a poorly organized, lightly armed opposition force could somehow get so close to the seat of power raised questions about the viability of a once unassailable police state.

In its final form, the title of the piece is “Syrian Rebels Land Deadly Blow to Assad’s Inner Circle”. I suspect the original, more optimistic drift of the piece is embodied in the URL:

Despite the telephoned and optimistically spun blandishments of President Obama, Putin didn’t bite (I expect he was still feeling the “Libya no-fly-zone burn”), and the anti-Assad coalition had, in addition to botching the putsch, failed to strip the Assad regime of Russian support. In fact, the Russian Federation doubled down on its support of Assad instead. Which, I imagine, feeds the “Bad Vlad” resentment that permeates Western capitals and editorial offices…

…exacerbated, certainly, by Putin’s sabotaging of another brilliant Western scheme, this time in Ukraine…

…which, come to think of it, explains my extremely jaundiced opinion of the reportorial and analytic capacities of the pro-Kyiv journos, who exhibit a similar paired obliviousness to incompetent, catastrophic, and morally bankrupt Western strategic gambits with credulous retailing of anti-Russian novelties as their outlets and colleagues previously displayed in the matter of Syria.

(Republished from China Matters by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: As-Safir, Damascus Bombing, Mideastwire, Syria 
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  1. D. K. says:

    For the record, the total number of deaths for the 9/11 attacks is officially 2996– and that is including the 19 hijackers responsible. Since a sizable minority of those killed in the 9/11 attacks were foreign nationals (even discounting the attackers themselves), the number of Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks was not even close to the 3000 claimed, above and in most other accounts. Fortunately, this is not yet an historical event for which one may be indicted, convicted, and imprisoned, for a term of years, for allegedly defaming the memory of the hallowed victims, simply by attempting to ascertain, as accurately as possible, the actual number of those who died (let alone, the actual nature of how they died). As a former girlfriend of mine was wont to say: “Maybe someday, not today….”

  2. IBC says:

    Wow, a hard-hitting and thought provoking piece.

    Maybe the solution to the “credulous, vociferous, enabling media” is to “embed” more Western journalists in the military units that are actually fighting, just like they did in “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Except this time they’d embed themselves on opposing sides and we’d compare and contrast their dispatches to extrapolate the truth. Thomas Friedman would sign up with al Qaeda while Brian Williams would shadow ISIS (Because their actions already stretch the imagination). Meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer would embed with Assad’s personal security detail while Geraldo Rivera would bounce around among the multitude of militias that make up the Syrian Opposition.

    Seriously, these types of conflicts exemplify how hard it is for outsiders to really know what’s going on. Which source is right and how do they know what they know? All the more reason why third-party governments and the electorates to which they’re supposed to be accountable, should think extra hard about becoming involved in foreign wars.

  3. But it’s a hell of a revenue stream. Military-industrial stocks are up 200%. Wall Street should be handing out medals to themselves. They also serve, who only stand and wait – for dividends. Peace would be a bear market.

  4. @D. K.

    “including the 19 hijackers responsible”

    Responsible for what? For loading the three (yes, three) buildings in Manhattan with high tech explosives well before the fated day?

    I thought the alleged (yes, alleged) hijackers were busy learning how to fly (not very successfully, by all accounts) small single engine aircraft at the time. Somewhere in Florida, no?

    Of course, if one did know how to rig a skyscraper for controlled demolition and had access to the key parts of the building to set it up, why would you then go off and study how to fly a plane to self-immolate yourself crashing into said building? When you had already rigged it for demolition anyway… Duhh….

    Well, I know, it’s hard. Like it’s surely hard to have a sensible conversation about astronomy if you have to pretend that the sun goes round the earth. So, likewise, it’s hard to have a sensible conversation about world events if you have to pretend that false flag terrorism doesn’t exist. ‘Cause that makes you a conspiracy theorist. And you also have to pretend that the power of organized world Jewry doesn’t exist. ‘Cause that would make you an anti-semite, you know… and that’s probably worse than being a conspiracy theorist. You can go to jail for that in many juriadictions…

    • Replies: @FirkinRidiculous
  5. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The whole situation is murky and there’s a lot of questions as to what’s taking place:

    -What is the relationship of AQ to ISIS? Don’t they share the same goals? Are they rivals in that they have different sets of leaders they wish to place in power? Or do they simply differ on tactics?
    -How would the US use ISIS or AQ against Iran? Do they take orders from the US?
    -What is the lineup of countries supporting one, the other, or both? The US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel are all implicated. Since the US and Turkey are both NATO countries does that imply that other NATO countries may also be involved?
    -How much money has been supplied to whom, who has provided training, who has provided how much in weaponry and military advice? Does the US supply satellite-aerial reconnaissance information to any of the factions? Has foreign recruitment of militants been secretly encouraged by the US?
    -What is behind this obsession with Iran? What are the ultimate goals?

    The cover needs to be ripped off so that the world can see what exactly is going on here.

    • Replies: @KA
  6. KA says:

    One way to understand the roles of different players in this conflict is to look at the roles played by different countries in the current Eukrainian conflicts . Some are surrogates and vassal and reluctant allies but only two are adversaries. Even there ,one of the adversaries is a reluctant one .

  7. @D. K.

    Or you could just use Wikipedia and find out that the number of foreign nationals was apparently 391 or 392. Happy now?

    • Replies: @D. K.
  8. @Jonathan Revusky

    What high-tech explosives did you have in mind? Ones that give off no sound whilst detonating?

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  9. @FirkinRidiculous

    “What high-tech explosives did you have in mind?”

    I do not know exactly what kind of explosives were used. There were numerous eye witness reports of people hearing explosions. So it seems that the explosives in question gave off sound.

    This is not an appropriate forum to debate this. In any case, you would first have to get informed about the subject. I would suggest you start with Independent researchers have established that the buildings did not disintegrate as a result of plane impact and subsequent fires. That is, in fact, impossible.

    The question you frame should be reposed as follows:

    What kind fo Boeing airliners hit the buildings? The kind that have no serial numbered parts, no black boxes? The kind whose fragile wings can slice through the hard structural steel of a skyscraper?

    If you so believe this story of the 19 hijackers and the religious nut in a cave in Afghanistan, could you tell me what specifically is the strongest hard evidence that this story is true?

    • Replies: @FirkinRidiculous
  10. @Jonathan Revusky

    I do not know exactly what kind of explosives were used. There were numerous eye witness reports of people hearing explosions. So it seems that the explosives in question gave off sound.

    Why did you specify high-tech explosives then? What was it about these supposed demolitions that couldn’t have been achieved by good old fashioned explosives?

    If you so believe this story of the 19 hijackers and the religious nut in a cave in Afghanistan, could you tell me what specifically is the strongest hard evidence that this story is true?

    I do believe the story, yes, but as you’ve told me this is not an appropriate place to debate this topic, your questions leave me in an unenviable position. But if you just answer my narrow question of the nature of the explosives, I’m happy to let the matter rest.

  11. @FirkinRidiculous

    “I do believe the story, yes, but as you’ve told me this is not an appropriate place to debate this topic, your questions leave me in an unenviable position.”

    I don’t get it. Why are you left in an “unenviable position”? If you believe the story, you should be able to say why you believe it, no? If you respond that there is overwhelming evidence, and it’s too much to lay out here, fine. Then, just tell me what, in your opinion, is the single most convincing piece of evidence that the Bin Laden/19 hijackers story is true.

    (Or do you mean you are in an “unenviable position” because the reason you believe the story is because that’s what they told you on the TV and you don’t want to admit that you believe the story but have no proof that it is actually true.)

    As for my comment that this is not an appropriate place to debate the topic, what I really meant was that the evidence that the government story is untrue does seem overwhelming. And if you and others aren’t familiar with it, you really ought to go to and get educated.

    Because if not, it gets into silly season. Like, your asking me what exact kind of explosives were used to blow up the buildings. And, actually, come to think of it, I already answered that question. I said straightforwardly that I didn’t know. Similarly, I don’t know what gun or bullets were used to shoot President Kennedy, say. It’s not a matter of great importance at this level of discussion. I believe, by the way, that President Kennedy was shot by one or more professional assassins, who would have used a high-end professional weapon, not by an amateur, Oswald, using a rifle he bought for 5 dollars. But, again, if you ask me what gun and what bullets were used for the hit, I would not be able to tell you any more than I can tell you what explosives were used to blow up the WTC. I am not a firearms expert nor am I an explosives expert.

    • Replies: @FirkinRidiculous
  12. D. K. says:

    No, I haven’t been happy “since Hector was a pup,” now that you ask. My point was simply that the number of Americans killed in the combined 9/11 attacks was well shy of being “over 3000,” as is claimed above, and as is regularly claimed in articles and posts that I read. The actual toll was what it was, and was quite bad enough, I should think, without any need for embellishing it, or for pretending that the nearly 3000 victims of that sad day were all Americans, because, as you quantify, a large number were not.

  13. @Jonathan Revusky

    First, you tell me this isn’t the place to discuss it, and then you invite me to discuss it….but I’m happy to if you and the moderators are.

    You claim ignorance of or indifference to the nature of the explosives, but yet you stated they were ‘high-tech’. What did you mean by that?

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  14. @FirkinRidiculous

    “You claim ignorance of or indifference to the nature of the explosives, but yet you stated they were ‘high-tech’. What did you mean by that?”

    What did I mean by that? Actually nothing. I am happy to retract the “high-tech” part of the “high-tech explosives” and just say “explosives”, okay? It makes no real difference. The issue is whether the story, the canonical version of which is, I guess, the 9/11 commission report, and which is the justification (in the public mind at least) for at least one war and an extensive program of kidnapping and torture — whether this story is TRUE OR NOT!

    THAT is what is important.

    Now, you stated your belief that the narrative of the religious nut in the cave directing the 19 suicide hijackers is truthful. Could you tell me why you believe this?

    So, what is the main reason you believe this to be true? That is my question for you. If you won’t answer that question, why not?

  15. What did I mean by that? Actually nothing. I am happy to retract the “high-tech” part of the “high-tech explosives” and just say “explosives”, okay?

    No. I suggest you included it because you couldn’t be bothered to properly understand the 9/11 truther material you’ve been exposed to. The most popular theory amongst the truthers is that thermite was used to fatally weaken the towers and precipitate the collapse. Thermite is not an explosive. The problem with the idea of using conventional explosives is that controlled demolitions of high-rise buildings are carried out in a manner that’s irreconcilable with the way the towers actually collapsed. So already your theory is fatally flawed and must be rejected. In which case, how can I believe anything but which the orthodox narrative claims?

  16. This article captures, in part, the madness of our times. All people can do anymore is laugh and shake their heads in bewilderment.

    Like calling Venezuela a Security Threat.

  17. @FirkinRidiculous

    It isn’t Thermite, it’s a mixture of nano-thermite and Thermate AND high explosives.

    Explosives are characterized by their rate of burn(how fast they burn.) High Explosive have a high burn rate. By reducing the particle size of the thermetic material the burn rate can be increased to greater than that of C-4. The Nano-thermite can be shaped and directed with special guides for cutting purposes. And there are other issues at play as well.

    However, it isn’t the case that we Truthers know exactly what happened. What we do know is that the Government is lying. Its story simply cannot be true. There is ample, copious evidence (forensic, eye-witness testinomy, audio/video, etc.) proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the US government is lying.

    That much is certain.

  18. @FirkinRidiculous

    …you couldn’t be bothered to properly understand the 9/11 truther material you’ve been exposed to.

    (Sigh.) I do not believe there is any particular gap in my understanding of the material I have seen at and other places. The thrust of the argument is that the conventional narrative cannot possibly be true (for a whole host of reasons) and therefore there is a need for a proper investigation, which, so far, has not occurred. If you sincerely believe that the material on stands or falls based on claims (or speculation, really) about what exact explosive devices were used, I would submit that it is you who have not understood.

    The problem with the idea of using conventional explosives is that controlled demolitions of high-rise buildings are carried out in a manner that’s irreconcilable with the way the towers actually collapsed. So already your theory is fatally flawed and must be rejected. In which case, how can I believe anything but which the orthodox narrative claims?

    Hmm, I always feel I should give people the benefit of the doubt, but I am now tending towards the belief that you are some sort of disinfo agent, and thus, not engaging in this discussion in good faith. So this is likely my last answer in this thread. I simply write a rebuttal for the benefit of any other people reading this who could potentially fooled by such sophistry.

    You are basically arguing that, because I cannot tell you exactly which explosive devices were used to blow the buildings, that, therefore, the official story must be accepted, which, in this case, is that NO explosives were used.

    This is exactly akin to arguing that if someone cannot tell me the exact kind of gun and bullets used in the JFK assassination, I have no choice but to conclude that NO gun or bullets were used!!!??? I suppose Jack just had a “splitting” headache that day. Quite literally!

    I have no idea whether you are a wilful purveyor of disinformation and sophistry or not. It is possible that you are making the above argument in good faith. However, if that is the case, it means that you are not sufficiently intelligent for it to be worthwhile for me to engage in this discussion.

  19. redwood says:

    The USA & its NATO allies & Israel are supporting Al-Qaeda against Iran. They want Obama’s talks to fail so they can attack Iran & use the same lies that were used to attack Iran. Bush did nothing to prevent 9/11, Clinton did nothing to prevent Benghazi. They will provoke more terrorism & say they hate us for our freedoms and other lies.

  20. I received a call from my daughter in London telling me to turn on the TV late on 11th September in Melbourne so I could see what was happening in America. What I saw with my own eyes and was told a few months later when in New York made any of the Truther conspiracy versions seem quite mad and certainly a total defiance of the common sense of Ockham’s Razor. Now I have also listened to an impressive account of the most likely cause of the critically hot fires that precipitated the collapse of the towers. I don’t remember all the detail but it seemed certain that it was the large amount of aviation fuel carried far into the centre of the buildings which was the key ingredient in the collapse.

    I am surprised that a fervent truther wouldn’t refer to this in order to counter it.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  21. @Wizard of Oz

    I don’t remember all the detail but it seemed certain that it was the large amount of aviation fuel carried far into the centre of the buildings which was the key ingredient in the collapse.

    This sounds impressive until you actually do some back of the envelope calculations with data that is readily available with a bit of googling.

    The steel frame of each tower contained 100,000 tons of structural steel. Each plane contains a maximum of 90,000 litres of jet fuel. Yes, that is less than one litre of kerosene for every ton of steel.

    If you scale it down some orders of magnitude, suppose I gave you a coffee cup full of gasoline, say 200 ml and there was a scale model of a wtc tower that weighed about a ton, of which over 200 kg is structural steel.

    Do you think the coffee cup full of fuel is enough to make the 1-ton model disintegrate in short order? Or is there something of an energy deficit here? I.e. what NIST is trying to tell us happened is self evidently absurd…

  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Peter. What on earth happened to Atimes?

    Looks like a website from the 90’s.

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