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Cockburn writes: "It is fortunate for Saudi Arabia and Qatar that the furor over the sexual antics of Donald Trump is preventing much attention being given to the latest batch of leaked emails to and from Hillary Clinton. Most fascinating of these is what reads like a US State Department memo."

Leaked memos which appeared on the WikiLeaks site demonstrate that the US knew its own allies were funding the Islamist terror group ISIS. (photo: Getty Images)
Leaked memos which appeared on the WikiLeaks site demonstrate that the US knew its own allies were funding the Islamist terror group ISIS. (photo: Getty Images)

New Evidence That US Allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar Are Funding ISIS

By Patrick Cockburn, Independent

16 October 16


There is a bizarre discontinuity between what the Obama administration knew about the jihadis and what they would say in public

t is fortunate for Saudi Arabia and Qatar that the furore over the sexual antics of Donald Trump is preventing much attention being given to the latest batch of leaked emails to and from Hillary Clinton. Most fascinating of these is what reads like a US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, on the appropriate US response to the rapid advance of Isis forces, which were then sweeping through northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

At the time, the US government was not admitting that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies were supporting Isis and al-Qaeda-type movements. But in the leaked memo, which says that it draws on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” there is no ambivalence about who is backing Isis, which at the time of writing was butchering and raping Yazidi villagers and slaughtering captured Iraqi and Syrian soldiers.

The memo says: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.” This was evidently received wisdom in the upper ranks of the US government, but never openly admitted because to it was held that to antagonise Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Pakistan would fatally undermine US power in the Middle East and South Asia.

For an extraordinarily long period after 9/11, the US refused to confront these traditional Sunni allies and thereby ensured that the “War on Terror” would fail decisively; 15 years later, al-Qaeda in its different guises is much stronger than it used to be because shadowy state sponsors, without whom it could not have survived, were given a free pass.

It is not as if Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the US foreign policy establishment in general did not know what was happening. An earlier WikiLeaks release of a State Department cable sent under her name in December 2009 states that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan].” But Saudi complicity with these movements never became a central political issue in the US. Why not?

The answer is that the US did not think it was in its interests to cut its traditional Sunni allies loose and put a great deal of resources into making sure that this did not happen. They brought on side compliant journalists, academics and politicians willing to give overt or covert support to Saudi positions.

The real views of senior officials in the White House and the State Department were only periodically visible and, even when their frankness made news, what they said was swiftly forgotten. Earlier this year, for instance, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic wrote a piece based on numerous interviews with Barack Obama in which Obama “questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally”.

It is worth recalling White House cynicism about how that foreign policy orthodoxy in Washington was produced and how easily its influence could be bought. Goldberg reported that “a widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as ‘Arab-occupied territory’.”

Despite this, television and newspaper interview self-declared academic experts from these same think tanks on Isis, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are wilfully ignoring or happily disregarding their partisan sympathies.

The Hillary Clinton email of August 2014 takes for granted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis – but this was not the journalistic or academic conventional wisdom of the day. Instead, there was much assertion that the newly declared caliphate was self-supporting through the sale of oil, taxes and antiquities; it therefore followed that Isis did not need money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The same argument could not be made to explain the funding of Jabhat al-Nusra, which controlled no oilfields, but even in the case of Isis the belief in its self-sufficiency was always shaky.

Iraqi and Kurdish leaders said that they did not believe a word of it, claiming privately that Isis was blackmailing the Gulf states by threatening violence on their territory unless they paid up. The Iraqi and Kurdish officials never produced proof of this, but it seemed unlikely that men as tough and ruthless as the Isis leaders would have satisfied themselves with taxing truck traffic and shopkeepers in the extensive but poor lands they ruled and not extracted far larger sums from fabulously wealthy private and state donors in the oil producers of the Gulf.

Going by the latest leaked email, the State Department and US intelligence clearly had no doubt that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Isis. But there has always been bizarre discontinuity between what the Obama administration knew about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and what they would say in public. Occasionally the truth would spill out, as when Vice-President Joe Biden told students at Harvard in October 2014 that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world”. Biden poured scorn on the idea that there were Syrian “moderates” capable of fighting Isis and Assad at the same time.

Hillary Clinton should be very vulnerable over the failings of US foreign policy during the years she was Secretary of State. But, such is the crudity of Trump’s demagoguery, she has never had to answer for it. Republican challenges have focussed on issues – the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi in 2012 and the final US military withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 – for which she was not responsible.

A Hillary Clinton presidency might mean closer amity with Saudi Arabia, but American attitudes towards the Saudi regime are becoming soured, as was shown recently when Congress overwhelmingly overturned a  presidential veto of a bill allowing the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government.

Another development is weakening Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies. The leaked memo speaks of the rival ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar “to dominate the Sunni world”. But this has not turned out well, with east Aleppo and Mosul, two great Sunni cities, coming under attack and likely to fall. Whatever Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the others thought they were doing it has not happened and the Sunni of Syria and Iraq are paying a heavy price. It is this failure which will shape the future relations of the Sunni states with the new US administration. your social media marketing partner


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Founder, Reader Supported News

+27 # RMDC 2016-10-16 09:28
Finally an article that addresses the really important issues of this campaign. The mass media in the US are doing what they always do -- distracting american voters from what really matters.

"The Hillary Clinton email of August 2014 takes for granted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis – but this was not the journalistic or academic conventional wisdom of the day."

This is a perfect case of Hillary having one policy for the public and another for her private ruling elites. All of the insiders of the US regime know that ISIS is their mercenary or terrorist army. They fund and direct them. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are merely conduits. But this is not what they say to the gullible American public.

I wonder when Americans will get tired to being treated like chumps. They've been told to fear ISIS and run to the government for protection and safety. But, lo and behold, it is the government and its allies who are funding, arming, and directing ISIS. Shouldn't this be grounds for an impeachment at the least and an all out revolution at best.

If you like being a chump, vote Hillary. There's a lot more to come. If you like what's happening in Libya and Syria, just wait until Hillary turns her ire to Iran.
+1 # Anonymot 2016-10-16 10:42
Or the man on the motorcycle with the bare chest. Or XI who should be changed to We.
+4 # fletch1165 2016-10-16 18:28
Hillary and Trump work for the same forces: The International banking cartel centered in London, fully in control of Israel, and are the Power Elite as defined by C. Wright Mills in his book of that name in 1956.

The signatures of the Power Elite are defined in William S. Domhoff's Book(U.C. Santa Cruz professor) "Wo Rules America."

It is essential to understand our government is controlled by foreign bankers and their corrupt partners here in the United States to understand the actual current paradigm, all of it: The illegal Middle East Wars, The role of Israel as a puppet state and co-opted movement from day one through Lord Balfour and Baron Walter Rothschild owner of the Royal Bank of London and head of the Jewish community in England, 9/11 and the Reichstag false flag, The abolishment on paper of the Bill of Rights and Magna Charta in the name of War Powers, The rigging of elections, and literally every other genuine bona fide concern you ever have had about Amerika.
0 # Merlin 2016-10-17 10:00
fletch1165 2016-10-16 18:28

What fletch said!
-5 # Jaax88 2016-10-16 22:59
There is a singular reason to vote for Hillary. Trump. You seem happy to encourage Trump to becoming president. Voting for Hillary is the only sane choice for our democratic country. Yes, USA has problems, especially living up to our self-declared ideal, but Trump is not a democrat nor an honorable candidate for president. Anyone trying to divert votes away from Hillary is dishonorable too.
+1 # Merlin 2016-10-17 10:00
Jaax88 2016-10-16 22:59
"Voting for Hillary is the only sane choice for our democratic country."

Your word processor is not working right again. Here, I fixed it for ya.

Voting for Hillary is the only insane choice for our undemocratic country.
+9 # guomashi 2016-10-16 10:11
The hypocrisy is palpable on the US side, but that is nothing new.
Maybe Trump will bring this stuff up at the third debate and skewer Clinton.
+2 # Caliban 2016-10-16 17:36
That will depend on whether Trump can find some personal financial benefit in the situation.
+4 # fletch1165 2016-10-16 18:42
This is evidently Trump's greatest acting ever. He has people convinced he's actually trying to win this election instead of dividing Americans which is the true reality. The money Sheldon Adelson spent truly seems to have paid off.
+2 # Merlin 2016-10-17 10:26
fletch1165 2016-10-16 18:42
"This is evidently Trump's greatest acting ever."

Yes! Every day that goes by, convinces me more that Trump is sHillary's man. It makes no sense to me that Trump is really trying to win. No one, I repeat, no one, with the public experience and exposure of Trump would continue to say the things he does if he wanted to win. In my view, his role in this electoral farce? Be so bad, that HRC looks good. To the bots, she has become the country's savior!

Wow! HRC and 3 dollar Bill in the WH again saving this country and the world! What a magnificent fantasy that is. (Shaking head in amazement.)
-1 # lfeuille 2016-10-16 22:26
Trump doesn't read. This won't be on Fox. Its doubtful he even know about it.
+16 # futhark 2016-10-16 10:54
Well, once again we have a situation in which abuse of public trust and human lives is not's just business. As Wolf Blitzer recently pointed out, cessation of military support for Saudi aggression against Yemen could mean loss of jobs in American weapons factories. The same goes for really disengaging the American military from perpetual action in multiple conflicts in the Middle East.

The hypocrisy and duplicity of the Military Industrial Complex and its puppet politicians is appalling and monstrous, as is the American public's lack of recognition of the flim-flam to which it has been subjected by press and politicians to keep this money machine working indefinitely.
+10 # elizabethblock 2016-10-16 11:06
I've read that Israel quietly took Al Qaeda off its list of terrorist organizations, and that it's helping Al Nusrah.
+8 # Radscal 2016-10-16 14:46
Since at least 2013, Israel has been providing medical care for wounded Jihadists, and then sending them back to slaughter more Syrians. Israeli-made weapons have been found in ISIL and al Qaeda posts after the Jihadist/mercen aries were routed.

And of course, Israel has been providing air support for these fiends by bombing Syrian Arab Army posts and shooting down at least one Syrian jet.

In one of the leaked emails, we see that a policy goal was to "throw more shade on the Arabs."
+4 # fletch1165 2016-10-16 18:47
Its helping whoever perpetuates the wars, including ISIS. Israel works for the International banking cartel that built it. The Rothschild's own 85% of all Israeli lands. Our elites worked closely with them to build up Hitler. Israel today is the proving grounds for nearly every Western corporation, all who have set up shop there. Its a European colony Hell bent on extracting wealth for our bankers and industrialists. The greatest relative poverty existed in the Middle East before our unilateral Gulf invasion. The most wealth in the World right next to the most extreme disadvantaged poverty.
+9 # indian weaver 2016-10-16 13:06
Turkey should be in this headline too. I imagine almost all readers here at RSN saw the Russian aerial photos of the 1000 oil tankers owned by ISIS lined up at the Turkish border with Syria, driving into Turkey with stolen oil from Syria. And who pays for that oil to fund ISIS? Why, Turkey of course, Obama's corrupt ally. I thought that example, so visually obvious, was plenty of evidence right there. Obviously, other allies are also proxy states for Obama / Biden / Pentagon to fund ISIS, and also arm them. Arming them hasn't been quite so much discussed in the real media like this one as Obama's funding of ISIS, but it should be. Just one relatively "trivial" example was of the Pentagon's abandonment of 1000 Humvees in Iraq's second largest city - Mosul - and allowed them to be taken by ISIS. Geez, the American people are disgustingly ignorant and cowardly. The entire country really deserves to be smoked into the stone age - especially first of all: Obama's evil Black House, and the mutually evil Black Congress (i.e.: the Capitol Building), black for evil, not skin color.
+7 # Radscal 2016-10-16 15:05
Thank you Marc/RSN for posting this more realistic look at US foreign policy.

There is a reason why, after we declared war on ISIL, it grew enormously and conquered huge portions of Iraq and Syria. Yet, within months of Russia agreeing to assist the legitimate government of Syria, ISIL lost more than half of its territory in Syria, and for the first time the number of fighters they had fell, forcing the US to enter negotiations with Russia for a series of failed cease fires.

And there is a reason why the US has been demonizing, and now openly threatening Putin and Russia ever since.

The A-A-Z Empire's goals in the Middle East have been clear since at least the Oded Yinon plan of the 1980s. The PNAC white papers of the 1990s explained the strategies to reach their goals (requiring a "New Pearl Harbor" attack inside the US).

And really, US policy has been to control all Middle Eastern countries, including Syria since WW II.

Seymour Hersh traces it back to the 1950s in this interview:

Even HRC testified that ISIL is the same group we supported in Afghanistan in the 1980s. We never stopped.
+6 # Radscal 2016-10-16 15:10
Our "Moderate Rebels" in East Aleppo - the ones HRC wants to protect with a "No Fly Zone - the ones who killed 5 children last week when they shelled a school in West Aleppo - well, they killed several more children today by once again shelling a residential neighborhood.

Too bad the actual Syrian Civil Defense Group doesn't have the funding and media experts that we provide for the White Helmets, AMC, etc. to provide us with heartrending photos and videos of the child victims of our "moderate rebels."

We have to make due with regular journalists who produce actual news coverage instead of staged propaganda. Not that our corporate media will bother to show even that.

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