Is US using the YPG in Syria or vice versa?
Remember the terrorist attack in Barcelona on Aug. 17, when an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) suicide bomber drove into a crowd of pedestrians, killing 13 and wounding 130, one of whom died later on?
If so, read on to learn about the attack’s links with the ongoing anti-ISIL collaboration between the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The Spanish police found out that the mastermind of the Barcelona attack was Abdelbaki es-Satty an imam living in the Catalan town of Ripoll. Satty is also among the suspected organizers of the Brussels attacks on March 22, 2016, which killed 35 people (including three suicide bombers) and wounded 340. He had lived in the Belgian town of Vilvoorde, 10 km north of Brussels, between January and March 2016, and left shortly before the bombings.
The Belgian police could not find solid evidence that Satty was directly involved in the Brussels attacks. But there are suspicions that he had links with another ISIL operative, Osama al-Attar, suspected of helping to organize both the Brussels attacks and the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, 2015 that killed 137 people (including seven suicide bombers) and wounded 413.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on Nov. 17 that the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI) has admitted to actually having contacts with Satty, established when Satty was in Castellion Prison between 2010 and 2014. Roughly, Spanish intelligence was using Satty as an ISIL informant (or at least thought it was using him as an ISIL informant).
The case reminds me of the Base Chapman case in Afghanistan, in which a suicide bomber blew himself up at a secret CIA base nicked “Chapman” near the town of Khost near the Pakistani border on Dec 30, 2009, killing eight people inside.
Before the attack, that suicide bomber - Jordanian physician Humam al-Balawi - had actually worked for the CIA (or at least that is the CIA thought). Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) had recruited him, believing he was the personal doctor of Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was al-Qaeda’s number two after Osama bin Laden. When U.S. operations concentrated on finding bin Laden (leading to his assassination on May 2, 2011 in Pakistan’s Abbotabad), the GID passed this “asset” onto the CIA for its work in Afghanistan, making Balawi a double-agent. But in fact he was a triple-agent who had always been working for al-Qaeda, as he later bitterly proved.
The recent Spanish case could be interpreted as a conspiracy by the Spanish government to draw attention to security problems and the necessity of unity and togetherness before the Oct. 1 referendum in Catalonia for independence. Or it could be interpreted as yet another example of state intelligence organizations being duped by non-state organizations; the old “hunter being hunted” story. Personally, I’d go for the second one.
State actors and their intelligence or security services always believe they are smarter than non-state actors, including illegal organizations. They often believe they can use non-state actors for as long as they want before doing away with them. But that is a deadly wrong assumption.
Non-state actors know what they have to do in the theaters where they play. They are often more ideologically motivated than state actors and also more dedicated to reaching their targets (even at the cost of their lives) than state actors and employees of state actors.
So when the state actors were thinking they had outsmarted the terrorists, it was actually the Jordanian doctor and al-Qaeda that were using the CIA for their own cause, as well as the Catalonian imam and ISIL using the Spanish (and other European) intelligence services for their own cause.
By the way, we still do not know much about Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) being duped by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in infiltration operations. There are still two MİT agents kept in the hands of the PKK, thought to be in the PKK headquarters of the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq. We also don’t know whether the MİT made any attempts to infiltrate the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher accused of masterminding Turkey’s July 15, 2016 military coup attempt.
The YPG in Syria, which the U.S. Central Command thinks it is successfully using as a ground force to defeat ISIL, is in fact the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has been fighting against NATO ally Turkey and which is also designated as a terrorist group by the U.S.
Do you think the PKK has forgotten that it was the CIA, in cooperation with the MİT, that arrested PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan as he left the Greek Embassy in Kenya in 1999? And do you think the PKK/YPG will simply abide obediently if and when the U.S. tells them “OK, enough with ISIL. Now please give back the weapons we lent you, erase that NATO-standard training from your memories, and go back to your homes”? Do you think the PKK/YPG would simply give up the 20 percent of Syrian territory that it controls, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and go away?
The U.S. cannot grant Kurdish autonomy, controlled by the PKK/YPG, in Syria. Who does have the power to provide it through its influence on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? Russian President Vladimir Putin.
So let me ask once again, cutting a long story short: Is the U.S. using the YPG in Syria, or is it the other way round?