Saudi Arabia has proven a major source of terrorist recruits and financing, while the Syria-Turkey border was a major crossing point for Islamic State recruits. Both countries [Saudi Arabia and Turkey] still have much to do, but that’s the point—if the Trump administration alienates them, the Islamic State problem will get much worse. With the United States on the other side in Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia might send anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian rebels and otherwise escalate the fighting in ways dangerous for international terrorism—actions that, so far, the United States has helped reduce.In essence, Byman is admitting what the rest of the world already long ago concluded - the vast fighting capacity the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS) possesses is not only a result of immense state sponsorship, it is sponsored by two of America's closest allies in the region - Saudi Arabia and NATO-member Turkey.
It was Turkey's own foreign minister who inadvertently admitted while trying to make a case for the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Syria that Turkey itself served as the primary staging point for ISIS and supplied the summation of its weapons and reinforcements required in Syria and beyond.
A May 2016 Washington Times article titled, "Turkey offers joint ops with U.S. forces in Syria, wants Kurds cut out," would quote the Turkish Foreign Minister admitting (emphasis added):
Joint operations between Washington and Ankara in Manbji, a well-known waypoint for Islamic State fighters, weapons and equipment coming from Turkey bound for Raqqa, would effectively open “a second front” in the ongoing fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Syria’s borders, [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] said.Byman confirms this with his appeal for the United States to remain aligned and committed to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Retroactively Blaming Syria for a War the US Engineered
Byman continues by claiming:
Assad facilitated the flow of fighters to Iraq to kill American soldiers there after the 2003 U.S. invasion. He has supported terrorism against Israel and otherwise opposed U.S. interests. And an Assad victory would be widely, and correctly, seen as a triumph for its biggest friend—the clerical regime in Iran.However, according to the US Army's West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) in a 2008 report titled, "Bombers, Bank Accounts and Bleedout: al-Qa'ida's Road In and Out of Iraq," it is admitted that not only did Syria play a significant role in fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates since their inception, but that underground networks were involved in trafficking terrorists into Iraq during the US occupation, not the Syrian government itself.
It would state:
Syria can almost certainly do more to disrupt the traffic across the border. However, it is unrealistic to expect the regime to expend more energy, given the economic and internal political importance of the underground cross border trade to Syrian social and political leaders, and the inherent limits of the regime’s ability to enforce a crackdown indefinitely.Byman's other 'moral metrics' for opposing Syria include "supporting terrorism against Israel" and being otherwise opposed to "U.S. interests," but neither accusation is qualified. In reality, Byman is admitting that the US is aligned with two of the largest regional sponsors of terrorism, including sponsors aiding and abetting ISIS itself, and seeks to depose the Syrian government because it otherwise opposes US interests.
Assad’s regime is the primary culprit in a war that has killed roughly half a million Syrians and driven millions more into long-term exile.Byman also laments that an Assad victory would create more refugees still - apparently oblivious to the "successful" regime change the US carried out in Libya in 2011, leaving the nation a failed state and the epicenter of the current and still ongoing regional refugee crisis.
In his eagerness to blame the Syrian government for the ongoing war, Byman strategically omits his own direct role and those of other US policymakers who, for years before the war began, advocated and plotted for its fruition.
From the Beginning, an Alliance with Terrorism, An Alliance of Convenience
As early as 2007, US journalists like Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh warned of US policymakers plotting with Saudi Arabia to use militants aligned with Al Qaeda to overthrow the governments of both Syria and Iran. In his article, "The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?," Hersh prophetically reported (emphasis added):
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.Byman himself, in 2009, would sign his name to a Brookings policy paper titled, "Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran" (PDF), in which he and other US policymakers would advocate the use of terrorism, color revolutions, staged provocations, sanctions and a vast array of other methods to provoke war with and overthrow the government of Iran. As a prerequisite for war with Iran, the paper noted that Syria would need to be dealt with.
In essence, the Brookings Institution and their gallery of desk-bound warmongers have not only advocated a destructive war they themselves calculate has cost nearly half a million lives, but have advocated both before and during the war, the state sponsorship of terrorist organizations to fuel this war.
Byman's latest piece promoted by Brookings all but admits the US maintains an alliance of convenience with the state sponsors of ISIS - not to defend any sort of value, principle, or moral imperative, but instead to achieve a self-serving geopolitical objective at the cost of such values, principles, and moral imperatives.
Byman concludes by claiming the Syrian government is too weak to consolidate control over Syria, omitting that there exists no alternative more unified or capable than the Syrian government. He then claims that the US should continue backing the "Syrian opposition," either oblivious of or indifferent to the fact that no such thing exists aside from ISIS and other foreign sponsored terrorist organizations. Aside from Raqqa and Idlib run by ISIS and Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise - Al Nusra respectively, the Syrian government has already indeed consolidated control over the country's main urban centers, including Aleppo.
For Byman and other policymakers like him, they find themselves moving imaginary armies across the battlefield that simply do not exist. In the end, the US will have to either abandon its enterprise in Syria, or pledge increasingly open support for ISIS and Al Nusra. Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”