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British aid for jihadists is nothing new

IT SHOULD not have taken a BBC Panorama investigation to get the government to pull funding for the “Free Syrian Police Force” which ended up lining the pockets of murderous fanatics.

The nature of the revolt in Syria has been clear for years, and the fact that behind innocuous-sounding labels (“Free Syrian Army,” “Syrian National Coalition”) lurk violent extremists has been pointed out to, and even acknowledged by, their Western sponsors for just as long.

Whatever the nature of the original uprising in 2011, once the civil war began the opposition rapidly became dominated by a variety of Wahhabi terrorist groups committed to building an “Islamic” state of one kind or another, whether or not they were part of Isis.

The United States admitted as long ago as 2015 that there were no “moderate” rebels left in Syria.

Experienced observers of the region, including the Independent’s Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, have pointed to the way groups portraying themselves as liberal when appealing for Western funding talk quite differently when addressing Syrian audiences in Arabic, and that a fixation with exterminating Syria’s Shi’ite and Christian communities was a common theme among most rebel groups.

This, perhaps, is what David Cameron was referring to when he admitted that the 70,000 “moderate” rebels he proposed backing two winters ago — supposedly to fight Isis, more probably to prevent a Syrian government victory in the war — were not the sort of people you’d invite to tea with the Liberal Democrats.

Again and again the extremists have been armed and equipped by our allies.

In 2014 Isis released video footage of its fighters celebrating the arrival of an airdrop containing US weaponry, intended for Kurdish forces but dumped in the wrong place.

In 2015 we learned that “Pentagon-trained rebels in Syria are reported to have betrayed their American backers and handed their weapons over to al-Qaida in Syria immediately after re-entering the country” after Division 30, the US-backed group in question, did a deal with the Nusra Front (as al-Qaida in Syria termed itself at that time).

In the same year, Amnesty International reported that Isis forces possessed large quantities of US-made weapons, some seized after it had militarily defeated rival groups the US had armed, others donated or sold to the terror group through corrupt connections in Iraq.

Payments made to this supposed police force in Aleppo — whose payroll apparently included dead and fictitious officers — were handed over to the Nour al-Din al-Zinki terror group, which achieved notoriety when it beheaded a small boy it accused of being a spy and broadcast a video of the child’s murder. (This did not stop the group, one of the controlling forces in Aleppo before its recapture by government troops, remaining a trusted source of information on alleged atrocities in the city by the Syrian military for the likes of the Guardian).

The “Free Syrian Police” were not even a unified organisation, so the fact that some individuals adopting its title were linked to courts involved in torture and the summary execution of detainees is hardly surprising.

As for individuals being chosen by the Nusra Front to serve in the police force, this merely reinforces the message of the arms dumps handed over to the terrorists.

Britain’s foreign aid budget, as noted previously by this newspaper, funds a number of appalling things, from profiteering school chains to privatisation of utilities in Third World countries.

That it provided our money to the same terrorist groups which carry out murderous attacks on innocent people across Asia and Europe is a scandal. But it isn’t new.

It is sadly consistent with everything Nato has promoted in Syria since the war in that country began.


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