In response to a report that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad blamed France for the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Secretary of State John Kerry said that “Assad has cut his own deal with Daesh” at a press conference Saturday in Vienna. Daesh is the Arabic name for ISIS. A video of the remarks is embedded below.
The issue here is whether or not we will recognize what has happened to Syria in this process. Now, there are other aspects of it. Have outside people funded people in a way that’s allowed this to happen? Yes. This is very complicated. But make no mistake – anybody, please – Assad has cut his own deal with Daesh. They sell oil. He buys oil. They are symbiotic, not real enemies in this. And he has not, when he had a chance over four years, mounted his attacks against Daesh. The Daesh headquarters sat in Raqqa for years. It was never bombed by his bombs. It was children and women and hospitals and schools that were bombed by his bombs.
So that is the reality here. And I think for him to try to blame what happed in Paris on anybody other, particularly the West who is trying to save his country and save his people and who is the biggest single donor to the refugees that he has created in order to safeguard them, is beyond insanity. It’s insulting.
Kerry’s remarks accusing Assad of helping ISIS echo previous observations by the administration, as well as outside experts. Gulf-based journalist Hassan Hassan wrote in The New York Times last year that Assad would make a poor partner in the fight against ISIS, as he has “allowed ISIS to grow and fester.” Hassan charged that Assad was “buying oil from it and other extremist groups after it lost control of most of the country’s oilfields and gas plants.” In June of this year, the administration accused Syria of bombing anti-regime rebels, aiding ISIS’s advance towards the strategic city of Aleppo.
Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia, have also aided ISIS instead of fighting it. Last month, a Syrian rebel commander told Reuters that the Russian offensive in Syria had aided ISIS: “Daesh has exploited the Russian air strikes and the preoccupation of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army in its battles in Hama, and advanced in Aleppo.” In May, citing Iranian-led efforts in Iraq against ISIS, security researcher Michael Pregent concluded that Iran had no interest in defeating ISIS, observing that “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.”
[Photo: U.S. Department of State / Brightcove ]