Syria – Pentagon Plants High ISIS Numbers To Justify Occupation

Moon of Alabama — August 16, 2018

The U.S. aim in Syria is still ‘regime change’. The Pentagon has made it clear that it wants to stay in the country even after the Islamic State vanished. A little propaganda trick is now used to create a justification for its continuing occupation.

The report by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team on ISIS, in parts discussed here, includes a number that smells of bullshit and manipulation:

  1. Some Member States estimate the total current ISIL membership in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic to be between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, roughly equally distributed between the two countries. Among these is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters.2

Footnote 2 gives as a source:

2 Member State information.

The high number given by a “Member State” exceed all prior assessments. The original strength of ISIS was estimated as a few thousand and it swelled as it took more land and incorporated local auxiliary forces and newly arriving foreign fighters. In September 2014, when ISIS was near its peak, the CIA estimated a total of 31,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq. The number shrank as ISIS was kicked out of more places it earlier occupied while it lost ten thousands of its fighters to Russian, Syrian, Iraqi and U.S. bombs, artillery and other military means. In July 2017 the commanding general of U.S. Special Forces said that 60 to 70,000 ISIS fighters had been killed.

The numbers in the UN Sanctions Monitor report simply make no logical sense. It is also contradicted by earlier estimates that put the number of current ISIS fighters in the low thousands. In December 2017 President Trump claimed that only “1,000 or so” fighters remained in Iraq and Syria. In a June 5 Pentagon press conference the spokesman was asked about the number of ISIS fighters left in Syria. He responded:

As far as the numbers, there’s — there’s been some numbers thrown out there over the past few months. You’ve heard the previous spokesmen range from 1,000 to 3,000. You’ve seen a lot of subject matter experts say something like that. I have nothing to add to that. What I will say is one ISIS fighter is one too many, and that’s what we’re pursuing. We’re pursuing their defeat.

But there must, of course, be a reason why “some Member States” would give the UN Monitor team such an absurdly high number.

The U.S. is justifying its occupation of north-east Syria by claiming to fight ISIS under the legal cover of two UN Security Council resolutions. Now, as ISIS in Syria has shrunk to a few dozens of fighters, that justification is wearing thin. It is immensely important for the Pentagon to present a high number, as ISIS is its only legal justification to stay in Syria. It is doubtful that Congress would agree to a prolonged occupation if ISIS vanished.

To publicize a high number the Pentagon used an old propaganda trick, fake “multi-sourcing”.

This trick was extensively used in the run-up to the war on Iraq. Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, would call up pliant journalists, Judith Miller of the New York Times comes to mind, and tell them about a “top secret” assessment that Iraq bought aluminum tubes to build centrifuges for Uranium enrichment. (Experts knew that Iraq bought these tubes to make military mortars.) But the New York Times printed the ‘nuclear’ nonsense on page one of its Sunday edition. A few hours later Dick Cheney and other Bush administration members appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and confirmed the story they had planted.

The tale of the ‘nuclear’ aluminum tubes was then perceived to have come from two independent entities and sources, the New York Times, and Vice President Cheney and other members of the Bush administration. It was thus widely believed.

We now see a similar scheme. A dubious fact, coming from a single source, is depicted as being multi-sourced. Another pliant journalist, this time Liz Sly of the Washington Post, is used to spread the fake news:

The Islamic State may still have in excess of 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq and appears to have rebounded from some of its worst setbacks, according to two new reports that call into question whether the militants are as close to defeat as the U.S. military has suggested.

Cont. reading: Syria – Pentagon Plants High ISIS Numbers To Justify Occupation

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