Why Does Assad Buy Oil From ISIS?

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A common claim in the mainstream narrative about the Syrian conflict is that the “Assad regime” is “colluding” with the notorious terror group, ISIS. Some commentators even suggest that the Syrian government actually created ISIS in an effort to “Islamize” the Syrian revolution,  and thereby destroy the supposedly secular, democratic, moderate rebel forces allegedly fighting for freedom against the Syrian dictatorship. By doing so, Assad would force “the world to choose between his regime and ISIS.”

One oft-cited aspect of this alleged collusion is the claim that the Syrian government purchases oil from ISIS. One such article comes from the Daily Beast in December 2015, and is entitled, “Revealed: Assad Buys Oil From ISIS,” while the Telegraph published an article in April 2016 entitled, “How Isil colluded with Assad to make $40m a month in oil deals.” Similar articles have appeared in Western press over the past three years, including in Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the Independent, Fox News, Reuters, the New York Post, Business Insider, and Fortune.

The strongest proof of this alleged collusion comes from documents captured from ISIS during a US raid in May 2015. The Wall Street Journal reports that ISIS’s number two oil manager, Abu Sayyaf, who was killed in the raid, had received a memo in which “Abu Sayyaf’s boss requested guidance on establishing investment relationships with businessmen linked to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

When one takes a closer look at why the Syrian government buys oil from ISIS, however, it is clear that there is nothing sinister about this and can hardly be characterized as a deliberate attempt to support ISIS to accomplish nefarious political goals. The Syrian government lost control of its last major oil field (the al-Omar field in Deir-Ezzur province in the sparsely populated east of the country) to U.S. and Gulf backed rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Nusra Front in November 2013. Roughly 7 months later, ISIS militants then captured these oil fields from Nusra Front and FSA fighters during their lightning offensive to take Deir-Ezzur province in July 2014.

Ever since losing control of these oil fields, the Syrian government has struggled to provide the energy that Syrians living in government controlled areas need simply to survive (to run hospitals, produce and transport food, heat homes, facilitate trade and commerce), and to supply its military with the oil needed to fight ISIS itself, as well as to combat the US/Gulf funded insurgency in the heavily populated west of the country, namely in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo. The Syrian government has therefore had little choice but to purchase oil from ISIS. Failure to do so would result in a humanitarian catastrophe and complete collapse of the Syrian state.  The Syrian government has made these oil purchases from ISIS out of necessity, as any government looking out for its own population would, all while the Syrian army continues to fight the terror group, despite Western media claims to the contrary.

Alarmist headlines which seek to suggest that the Syrian government is deliberately “colluding” with ISIS in an effort to support the terror group are part of the long standing propaganda campaign to tarnish the reputation of the Syrian government, and obscure the efforts of the US and its Gulf allies to support extremist rebels in Syria (whom the West would consider terrorists in other contexts) in an effort to use these groups as a tool to accomplish US foreign policy goals in the region. I discuss these claims in greater detail below.

FSA and Nusra Front Rebels Capture Syria’s Oil Fields

Syria’s main oil producing fields lie in the sparsely populated east of the country, in Deir Ezzur province, near the Iraqi border. In April 2013, rebels from the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and from the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front jointly assaulted Deir Ezzur province in an effort to capture these oil fields.

The State department funded news site Syria Direct published an interview with the spokesman for the FSA General Staff Eastern Area, Omar Abo Laila, on April 25th 2013, in which he indicated that the FSA “alone rules” Deir Ezzur and that it controlled roughly 95% of the oil fields in the province, including the al-Wared, al-Taim, al-Tannak and al-Kamb oil fields, and that the FSA was actively looking for investors to help develop the fields. The Financial Times reported that the European Union would be lifting its embargo on Syrian oil from rebel controlled areas in order to allow the rebels to sell oil to fund their military operations.

Abo Leila acknowledged the contribution made by militants from the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front to help the FSA take control of the province, noting that “The relationship between the FSA and Jabhat a-Nusra is like that between any two armed groups in this revolution. They share the same objective, which is to remove Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his agents. The FSA usually starts and supervises operations and Jabhat a-Nusra follows at the later stages.” Indeed, cooperation between the FSA and Nusra Front in the Deir Ezzur region had existed since at least July 2012. Nusra Front rebels in the village of Mohassen told the Guardian at that time that “we meet almost daily” with FSA fighters, and that “We have clear instructions from our leadership that if the FSA needs our help we should give it. We help them with IEDs and car bombs. Our main talent lies in bombing operations.”

Direct evidence of Nusra involvement in taking the oil fields came from reports that Nusra militants clashed with government supported tribes in the area in April 2013. Reuters reported that, “Masrib tribesmen called for help from Assad’s forces against Nusra, according to the [Syrian Observatory for Human Rights] and a fighter with the Islamist group. Nusra responded by blowing up 30 houses after the battle, in which 17 rebels were killed, at least four of them foreigners, the fighter said on Skype. ’They (the villagers) killed some of our men and mutilated their bodies, which immediately mobilized the (Nusra) Front … we saw that they were getting help from the regime, which sent them weapons and ammunition,’ he said on Skype.”

However, if FSA claims of control of the majority of Deir Ezzur province and its significant oil resources were true, this control didn’t last long. In early May 2013, just weeks after the FSA spokesperson declared control of the province, a wave of fighters defected from the FSA to the Nusra Front throughout Syria, including in Deir Ezzur. The Guardian reports that “Jabhat al-Nusra is winning support in Deir al-Zor, according to Abu Hudaifa, another FSA defector. ‘They are protecting people and helping them financially. Al-Nusra is in control of most of the oil wells in the city.’”

It is unclear how ownership of these oil fields changed hands from the FSA to Nusra. Its possible the FSA simply relinquished the oil fields to Nusra as its fighters defected to Nusra, or its possible that Nusra and the FSA captured the fields jointly to begin with, and FSA spokespersons were tasked with the public relations role of appealing to the EU to lift the sanctions on oil sales, and to recruit investors to allow further development and distribution of the oil resources (if this was the case, the FSA had to publicly claim full control of the fields as a result).

I speculate that Nusra was, at minimum, in joint control of these fields along with the FSA to begin with, if not in primary control, given the timing of the dispute that erupted between the head of the Nusra Front, Muhammad al-Joulani, and the head of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi’s actions at the time make it clear he anticipated Nusra would be a major beneficiary of the oil revenue from the newly captured fields.

Al-Baghdadi had helped found the Nusra Front in 2011 by sending al-Joulani from Iraq to Syria, along with cash and small group of fighters. Joulani’s task was to establish a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria to take advantage of the unrest then sweeping the country. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the merger of Nusra and ISI, declaring that the organization would now be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). Al-Joulani however seemed surprised by this declaration, and refused to obey al-Baghdadi’s orders. Al-Joulani insisted that Nusra would remain independent of ISI, and he declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s long time deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, rather than to al-Baghdadi. This dispute ignited a war between the two al-Qaeda offshoots that still continues.

Though often considered theologically/ideologically driven by by terrorism experts, the rift between both groups appears to have resulted simply from a dispute about how to share oil revenue of the newly captured Syrian oil fields.

Indeed, this is the view of journalist Theo Padnos, who was kidnapped by Nusra militants and held captive by them for over two years, giving him the opportunity to interact at times with top Nusra commanders. According to Padnos, “The real issue between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was that their commanders, former friends from Iraq, were unable to agree on how to share the revenue from the oil fields in eastern Syria that the Nusra Front had conquered.”

Baghdadi’s effort to merge Nusra and ISI took place at the exact time that Nusra militants, along with the FSA, were taking control of the majority of the Deir Ezzur oil fields (April 2013). If Nusra was in true control of the oil fields, rather than the FSA, it would make sense that al-Baghdadi would rush to declare the merger between his organization in Iraq and the Nusra Front in Syria in order to make sure he controlled the significant revenue that would come from these fields. By refusing to swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi, and swearing it instead to al-Zawahiri, who was located in distant Pakistan, and who now held a largely symbolic rather than operational role in the global jihadi movement, al-Joulani was able to maintain control of this new income stream from the Syrian oil fields and remain at the head of one of the most powerful Syrian rebel factions.

In November 2013, al-Joulani’s fortunes further improved, as Nusra militants captured the last major oil field in Deir Ezzur under Syrian government control, the al-Omar field. Sky News (UK) reported at the time that “Islamist rebels claim they have seized Syria’s largest oil field, potentially cutting off President Bashar al Assad’s supply of almost all local crude reserves. If confirmed, the loss of the al-Omar oil field in the eastern Deir al-Zor province could leave Assad’s military forces relying almost entirely on imported oil in their campaign to crush the rebel uprising.”

Sky News reported also that “Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, claimed the capture of al-Omar meant ‘nearly all’ of Syria’s oil reserves are now in the hands of Islamist units, including the al-Nusra Front. ‘The regime’s neck is now in Nusra’s hands,’ he said.”

Abdelrahman’s view that the Syrian government was essentially now a hostage to Nusra was echoed by the New York Times which observed that “A group of Syrian rebel brigades, including an affiliate of Al Qaeda, seized a large oil and gas field from government forces on Saturday, opposition activists said, further depriving the government of President Bashar al-Assad of the resources it needs to remain solvent [emphasis mine].”

Abdulrahman does not mention that the FSA took part in capturing the al-Omar field, further confirming its previously junior role in taking other oil fields in Deir Ezzur just a few months before. Speaking to the New York Times, Abdulrahman does mention however that the Syrian rebel group known as the Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam) participated alongside Nusra in the operation to take the al-Omar field. The Army of Islam is a Salafi-Jihadi rebel group created by Saudi Arabia and for which US officials have expressed public support. The Army of Islam advocates “cleansing” Syria of its Alawite and Shia minorities, seeks to establish an Islamic state in Syria, and is outspoken in its opposition to democracy.

Two months later, in January 2014, accusations that the Syrian government was purchasing oil from the Nusra Front first appeared in the Western press. The Telegraph published an article at that time entitled “Syria’s Assad accused of boosting al-Qaeda with secret oil deals, with the subtitle “Western intelligence suggests Bashar al-Assad collaborating with jihadists to persuade West the uprising is terrorist-led,” and which quoted an anonymous Western intelligence official as the source of its information.

The Telegraph notes that, “The source accepted that the regime and the al-Qaeda affiliate were still hostile to each other and the relationship was opportunistic, but added that the deals confirmed that ‘despite Assad’s finger-pointing’ his regime was to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria.”

That the Syrian government was primarily to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria was of course an odd accusation to make, given that US allies in the FSA and Army of Islam had just helped al-Qaeda (Nusra) capture the very oil fields that the Syrian government “needs to remain solvent” and which allowed Nusra to hold the Syrian government’s “neck” in its hands.

Now that Nusra controlled Syria’s major oil fields, the Syrian government had little choice but to purchase oil from the group in order to keep Syrian society functioning, provide for the needs of Syrian civilians living under government control, and provide oil to the Syrian army in the fight against the US/Gulf supported insurgency threatening Syria’s most important and largest cities, Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, in the West of the country.  There was simply no way, despite receiving some oil imported from Iran, that the Syrian government could replace almost the entire supply of energy needed for the country to function without purchasing the oil produced from its own oil fields, now unfortunately under Nusra control.

But the al-Omar and other Deir Ezzur oil fields did not remain in the hands of the Nusra Front for long. In June 2014, ISIS militants were ascendant, having captured Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq, thereby prompting ISIS leader al-Baghdadi to proclaim the establishment of the so-called Caliphate and to change the name of his group from the “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” to simply, the “Islamic State.”  Shortly thereafter, in July 2014, ISIS militants launched a lightning military campaign into eastern Syria, capturing large swathes of territory, including the city of Raqqa, and essentially erasing the old colonial border between the two countries. In the face of the ISIS’ military advance, Nusra militants fled the oil fields in Deir Ezzur, allowing ISIS to capture them without a fight. Al-Jazeera reported that, according to one ISIS commander, the Nusra militants “fled like rats.”

Padmos commented on this period as well, explaining, “I didn’t know it at the time, but the Nusra Front was losing its war with the Islamic State, the group often referred to as ISIS. From conversations with guards and other prisoners, I gleaned that the two organizations were about equal in strength and that under no circumstances would the Islamic State be allowed to touch the oil fields, the real prize in Syria’s east. But in mid-June, when I was allowed to watch TV for the first time since my capture, I saw a map covered in Islamic State logos.”

As a result, ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was able to gain by military means the oil revenue he had previously failed to secure when he tried to “merge” Nusra and ISI one year before. The Syrian government was then forced to begin purchasing oil from ISIS. The “regime’s neck” was now in the hands of ISIS, just as it previously was in the hands of the Nusra Front.

Middle East commentator Fawaz Gerges, noted in his book “ISIS: A History,” that “Interestingly, ISIS first prioritized the the fight against al-Nusra and other opposition militias rather than the fight against Assad’s forces (page 191).” Though Gerges does not venture a guess as to why, the answer is obvious when you keep in mind who controlled Syria’s oil fields, and the significant revenue they could provide. Nusra had the oil fields, Assad did not.

Yes, the Syrian Army is Fighting ISIS

Though the first priority of ISIS was to fight the Nusra Front, ISIS and the Syrian government have been fighting each other throughout the conflict. Journalists accusing Assad of “colluding” with ISIS through oil purchases belatedly acknowledge that the Syrian government is fighting ISIS, thereby undermining their own claims. It would not make sense for the Syrian government to buy oil from a terror group it was also fighting, unless it had no choice but to do so.

The April 2016 Telegraph article mentioned above (“How Isil colluded with Assad to make $40m a month in oil deals”) acknowledges that “the two sides forged a mutually beneficial arrangement despite being at war with one another [emphasis mine].”

Similarly, a December 2015 Reuters article entitled “Islamic State oil is going to Assad, some to Turkey, U.S. official says,” quotes U.S. Treasury Department official Adam Szubin as noting “ISIL is selling a great deal of oil to the Assad regime. The two are trying to slaughter each other and they are still engaged in millions and millions of dollars of trade [emphasis mine].”

Szubin was likely referring to fighting between the Syrian government and ISIS in both Deir Ezzur city and in the nearby historic city of Palmyra. ISIS militants had overrun Palmyra six months before Szubin’s comments, in May 2015. CNN reports that some 100 Syrian soldiers were killed by ISIS militants while trying to defend the city, while the Telegraph reports that some were beheaded in the street after their capture. Fighting continued between the two groups for the next ten months, until the Syrian army liberated the city in March 2016 with Russian assistance.

Journalist Robert Fisk highlighted the story of Syrian general Fouad Khadour, who fought for years against ISIS and participated in the effort to liberate Palmyra. Fisk writes that Khadour “had led his soldiers into Palmyra under constant mortar attack. Many of them had died stepping on the mines which Isis had so artfully laid beneath apparently well-trodden dirt roads.” Khadour was finally killed by a mortar while fighting ISIS east of Palmyra in the hills around al-Arak in July 2017.

The Syrian government has also fought ISIS for years in an effort to prevent Deir Ezzur city from falling into the hands of the terror group. ISIS has imposed a siege on the city since December 2014, completely surrounding it, and requiring the Syrian government to airlift humanitarian aid to the city’s civilians and military supplies to the Syrian army fighting to protect them. Time reports that “The people in the government-controlled section of Deir ez-Zor make up the largest single community in Syria under siege from any side in the brutal civil war, according to the U.N. The Syrian government is fighting to keep the city in part because the battle ties down ISIS forces that might otherwise push west toward Damascus” and that government soldiers in the majority Sunni city “seemed determined to fight on, knowing that defeat would almost certainly result in their slaughter. The local Sunni Shaitat tribesmen, who fight with the army, are witness to ISIS’s brutality. After the tribe resisted the ISIS takeover of the local oil fields in July, the militants executed at least 700 of them, according to locals and a human-rights group. Few doubt that the fate of the defenders of Deir ez-Zor would be any different if ISIS prevails [emphasis mine].”

In the Western Media, Necessity Becomes “Collusion”

Despite alarmist headlines in the Western press suggesting  that ISIS oil sales to the Syrian government are part of a collusive relationship to support one another as part of a sinister plot to destroy the “moderate” Syrian opposition, these articles themselves often acknowledge that the Syrian government had little choice but to purchase oil from ISIS, and that much of the oil was purchased not by the Syrian government directly, but by private Syrian business persons and civilians in need of fuel for the sake of basic survival.

In the Daily Beast article from December 2015 mentioned above, the author does his best to smear the Syrian government, arguing “We know ISIS has a discreet arrangement with a neighbor, but it’s not Turkey. The Syrian regime has done business with ISIS from day one.” The author nevertheless admits that “We don’t know how much oil ISIS has delivered to Assad, but there’s no doubt he needs it. For the first half of 2015, the regime’s oil output was less than 10,000 barrels a day. That was before pro-Assad forces retreated from even more oil-rich territory [emphasis mine].”

In addition to acknowledging that the Syrian government needs ISIS-produced oil, the author then goes on to describe how the majority of this oil reaches Syrian government controlled areas. Crucially, this occurs in a manner that has nothing to do with the Syrian government purchasing the oil at all. Rather, it reaches these areas (after being refined to become gasoline) through basic free market capitalist means:

The majority of ISIS oil is purchased by locals inside ISIS territory. ISIS doesn’t operate its own fleet of tanker trucks. That would be a waste of resources and manpower. Instead, the group relies on hundreds of middlemen who provide their own trucks and pay for the oil in cash at ISIS-controlled fields. . . The trucks don’t have to go far to sell ISIS oil. In fact, it’s cheaper and easier for them to sell oil to locals who run basic refineries in the countryside, not far from the main oil fields in eastern Syria. . . . With few exceptions, these backyard refineries are just stills in which small batches of oil are heated and the resulting vapor is condensed into low-grade fuel. The owners, usually desperate Arab families who don’t belong to ISIS, run several at a time. The work is dirty and dangerous; the scene is apocalyptic. Toxic plumes of black smoke, scorched earth, soot, and explosions make Mad Max look tame. Hundreds if not thousands of these stills are now active across Syria. Combined, they provide tens of thousands of barrels in daily refining capacity. Fuel from these refineries is sold at roadside pumping stations or in bulk to middlemen who deliver it to population centers where demand is greater [emphasis mine].

Interestingly, civilians and armed groups in opposition held areas purchase fuel from ISIS in exactly the same way that Syrians in government-held areas do, showing that Syrians in both government and opposition areas have little choice but to do so. Researchers from the London School of Economics described the process they refer to as the “diesel domino effect” in which farmers, civilians, and even Western-supported aid groups purchase fuel that originates in ISIS controlled areas and thereby help fund the terror group:

Most opposition controlled areas are rural areas. Before 2011 their economy was centered around agriculture and animal farming, trade and industry in these areas are also centered around agriculture. The availability and price of diesel is crucial to the economy of these areas since most agricultural activities depend on diesel which is used for operating machinery (plaguing, harvesting, pumping water, transport). . . . The country side areas of Idleb and Aleppo have borders with ISIL-controlled areas. Crude oil arrives from ISIL-controlled oil wells to be refined at new small privately owned refineries. It is then either sold locally at 2.5 times the price in Damascus, or smuggled to Turkey where it can be sold for an even higher price. Even home-use gas like butane cylinders are only available on the black market-which means that, even when people cook their food or warm their houses in the freezing winters, civilians have to indirectly pay armed actors and war profiteers through the inflated prices of the fuel they use. . . .Many of the projects funded by international donors and INGOs in Syria, such as field hospitals and civic defense, all of which require fuel either for machineries or for the generation of electricity, are not provided with a source of legitimate fuel as part of the project support. Instead, they are offered funds to cover the cost of the fuel. Unless the fuel problem is solved part of these funds are going to the hands of ISIL and war profiteers from armed actors and associated traders on all sides including the Syrian government [emphasis mine].

The Western press has of course not published articles describing opposition purchases of fuel originating with ISIS as collusion.  

Assad’s “Darkly Cynical Master Plan”

Though the Syrian government was being held hostage by ISIS and purchased oil from it out of necessity, and though the Syrian government has fought many bloody battles against the terror group, articles continue to appear in the Western press accusing Assad of “colluding” with ISIS as part of a “darkly cynical master plan,” to use the words of the Business Insider.

The Western press has made these accusations about Syrian government support for ISIS despite the fact that US/Gulf-backed rebel groups have fought side by side with extremists from Nusra (for example in Aleppo) and at times even ISIS itself (for example at the Menagh air base), on many occasions throughout Syria since 2011.

Yet more strange is that these accusations are leveled at the Syrian government despite the fact that US officials have stated both that they initially welcomed the growth of ISIS and that close US allies in the Gulf actually funded ISIS.

US planners saw the growth of ISIS as a way to exert leverage on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down as part of a negotiated solution that would allow the pro-U.S. Syrian opposition to take power. In a meeting with members of the Syrian opposition at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations in September 2016, then Secretary of State John Kerry explained, that “the reason Russia came in is because ISIL [Islamic State] was getting stronger. Daesh [Islamic State] was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus. And that is why Russia came in. They didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad. And we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him . . .  but for us politically, we have a congress that will not authorize our use of force. Congress will not pass that. And so we’re trying to help the best way we can. But we finally decided the best thing we can do is to try to have a political solution where the opposition is part of the government and you can have an election and let the people of Syria decide who they want [emphasis added].”

Further, in September 2014 Senator Lindsey Graham asked US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey if any major Arab ally of the US “embraces” ISIS. Dempsey replied bluntly, “I know major Arab allies that fund them [emphasis mine].” The U.S., however, took no action against its allies (presumably Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait) for funding ISIS, and yet persisted in claiming that Assad and the terror group were colluding.

Conclusion

Because the Syrian government is in desperate need of oil to prevent the collapse of the Syrian state, to provide for the needs of the millions of Syrians living in government held areas, and to fight the US/Gulf sponsored insurgency threatening Syria’s major population centers, it is reasonable for the Syrian government to purchase oil from whomever it is able, including Nusra or ISIS, just as rebel groups, Western aid agencies, and civilians in opposition held areas have.

While it is reasonable for the Syrian government to purchase oil from ISIS, the fact that the Western media focuses heavily on this fact, and attempts to report it in a way that suggests Assad is part of a grand conspiracy to strengthen ISIS in order to discredit and weaken the supposedly moderate Syrian armed opposition, raises several questions.

First, why was the U.S. supporting rebel groups (from the FSA) who were openly working together with al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate (the Nusra Front) to conquer Deir Ezzur province, and take control of Syria’s oil fields? Why did the European Union lift sanctions to allow the FSA to sell this oil, when it was known that the FSA was working closely with the Nusra Front? Did Western intelligence officials not anticipate that Nusra would benefit from these oil sales? Does this mean that the US and EU were “colluding” with al-Qaeda?

If these U.S.-backed rebel groups were openly fighting side by side with al-Qaeda, should they be considered “moderate”? Is there a significant difference between the “moderate” opposition and the “extremist” opposition? Does Assad need to convince the West that it must to choose between him and the extremists, when U.S.-supported rebel groups (FSA) have fought side by side with these extremists for years and when close U.S. allies have created rebel groups (Army of Islam) that share the same Salafi-Jihadi ideology as al-Qaeda? Wouldn’t this mean the US chose the extremists over Assad from the beginning of the Syria conflict, as the extremist groups had the best chance to overthrow the Syrian government, which is the result U.S. planners hoped for? If the U.S. was using the growth of ISIS as leverage to force Assad to step down, why would Assad wish to “collude” with ISIS to help make the group more powerful? Was it part of Assad’s plan to lose virtually all of Syria’s oil resources to a hostile group, which resources he needed for his government to “remain solvent”? How would doing so be in Assad’s interests?

Why are conspiracy theories that Assad colludes with ISIS repeated without question in the Western press, while statements from a top American general that America’s close Arab allies fund ISIS are completely ignored? Why is it taken for granted that Assad created ISIS, when the Saudi foreign minister has admitted ISIS is the Saudi government’s “answer” to the Shia-dominated government in Iraq? How is Assad responsible for the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS when the ideology of ISIS has roots in Wahhabism, the official ideology of the Saudi state?

In my view, the concerted effort on the part of the Western media to accuse Assad of colluding with ISIS is part of the long standing propaganda campaign to demonize the Syrian government, and obscure the efforts of the US and its Gulf allies to themselves support many of the extremist rebel groups now fighting to destroy the Syrian state, causing considerable misery and suffering for millions of Syrians as a result.

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