Cui bono (/ /), literally "to whose profit?", is a Latin phrase which is still in use as a key forensic question in legal and police investigation: finding out who has a motive for a crime.Cui bono, or Qui profite in French, is also a good starting point for understanding Friday's terror attack in Paris that took 129 lives and injured hundreds more. It is the most recent of a string of attacks claimed by Daesh that include 40 killed in twin Beirut bombings and the downing of a Russian passenger jet.
The avowed purpose of Daesh is to build an Islamic State or caliphate from the territories of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. These bold attacks, especially in the west, do a lot to build the groups notoriety which, paradoxically, helps its recruitment among young disaffected Muslims. That would appear to be the most significant, if not the only, benefit the group can expect from these attacks. It will have enhanced its reputation as an enemy of the West. But it is also a mixed bag for Daesh because these terrorist acts will mean the military attacks on its base and support for those fighting it in Syria and Iraq will be greatly intensified. Daesh may well have overreached itself here as there may be a backlash it can't handle. Perhaps they think all out war with the West is the best way to build their caliphate. If they do, I think they are wrong.
Whatever their motivation, ISIS has taken credit for the attack, so there would seem to be no need to look further for a culprit. At the same time, I think we would be well served to remember that not everything is as it first appears, particularly in the Middle East.
This morning both former CIA deputy director Micheal Morrell, representing US imperialism on CBS This Morning and Vijay Prashad, representing the Imperial Left on Democracy Now, used the Paris attacks to argue that the US should support and work with the Assad regime to defeat Daesh. This is also an argument being advanced by the Russians and Assad himself.
Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Assad has claimed that he was fighting jihadi terrorists not democracy advocates. In many ways he helped ISIS develop as his opposition. He let the jihadists out of prison when the uprising began, he financed them with oil purchases and he gave them safe-haven after they seized Raqqa. Within Syria his line has always been "Assad or we burn the country," and they have been burning the country because the people still won't accept Assad. Internationally his line has been "Assad or ISIS." Russia has been attacking the non-ISIS forces, and killing a lot of civilians, in an attempt to make sure Assad is the only alternative to ISIS.
There can be little doubt that Assad's agenda will benefit from the Paris attack as Daesh is promoted to public enemy number one, escape routes for Syrians fleeing his rule are cut off, and calls go out from every quarter saying that Syrians must accept Assad, for now, as the lesser of the two evils.
There can be no doubt that the Assad regime will be a big beneficiary of the Paris terror attacks, perhaps it biggest, and unlike ISIS, its hard to see any downside for it.
But motive alone does not make a criminal case. What about means and opportunity?
The Assad regime has quite a history of creating phony terror attacks. Virtually all the bombs that went off in the most secure sections of Damascus in the early days of the uprising are said to be false-flag attacks staged by the regime. Nawaf Fares, the former Syrian ambassador to Iraq who defected in July 2012 told James Bay of Al Jazeera that all the large explosions in Damascus that were blamed on terrorists were actually the work of the regime. He said that in the case of the bomb at the intelligence headquarters, people got a 15 minute notice to get out of the building.
They have also been caught planting fake arms evidence to smear the pro-democracy movement, using pictures of kids killed in US drone strikes in Afghanistan to frame the Syrian opposition for atrocities, claiming videos of jihadist atrocities in Iraq were the acts of rebels in Syria and even using actors to record fake terrorist testimonials. They have also carried out massacres in such a way as to make it look like the rebels did it.
All this goes to show that the Assad regime is a criminal enterprise that has a wanton disregard for human life that has both the will and the capability to fabricate terror attacks, at least within Syria, but since ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack we clearly aren't talking about a fake attack done in its name. So in order to make a case that the Assad regime is behind the Paris terror attacks one would have to prove that the regime controlled ISIS or a part of ISIS or has enough influence to have Daesh carry out attacks on its behalf.
The elements of collusion between Daesh and the Assad regime have already been well established in this blog and many other places. The connection of Bashar al-Assad to the current crop of senior jihadists goes back to when his security services ran a series of supply lines and safe houses in Syria known as "the rat-line" for Al Qaeda elements fighting the US occupation in Iraq. Among those he gave safe passage to were the "19th district network" of French Islamists that enlisted in the anti-American jihad in Iraq, two of those "19th district network" veterans, the Kouachi brothers, were two thirds of the "Charile Hebdo" attack that hit Paris in January. They were also part of the Brussels network implicated in the planning of Friday's Paris attack. This is how Jean-Pierre Filiu, professor of Middle East studies at Sciences Po, Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) describles another member of that network:
The key figure and inspirational role model of this jihadi network was Boubaker al-Hakim, a French-Tunisian extremist who was protected by Bashar al-Assad’s intelligence apparatus when transiting through Syria from France to Iraq. Hakim was eventually jailed in France from 2005 to 2011 soon after his “nineteenth district” was dismantled. On release from prison he headed to Tunisia where he organized the military branch of the jihadi group “Supporters of the Sharia” (Ansar al-Sharia). He joined ISIS in 2013 and chose the moniker of “Abu Muqatil” to issue repeated threats against “infidel” France from the north-east of Syria.It is not beyond reason to think that the Syrian security services have maintained their own independent connects to a jihadists like Hakim over the years.
Hakim was the mentor of the Kouachi brothers and he monitored the exfiltration of [3rd January Paris terrorist] Coulibaly’s girlfriend from France to jihadi-controlled territory in Syria, through Spain and Turkey. The French judicial prosecutor is now convinced that the very same Syria-based mastermind gave orders and assigned targets to the Kouachi brothers and to Coulibaly.
We know that the Syrian jihadist movement got an initial boast when Assad let all the Islamic extremist out of prison as soon as the revolution started in 2011. We know he renewed many of his Iraq war ties with them. A Syrian activist, Maher Esper, who was locked up in Assad's notorious Saydnaya prison, identified many of his former prisoners from Daesh YouTube videos:
“There’s a person I saw in a video in which fourteen Raqqa clans pledged allegiance to ISIS, he used to sleep on the bunk directly above mine. The regime released those individuals despite their involvement in murders, even in prison. All those I saw became members or leaders of ISIS."Again, its easy to wonder what kinds of deals these criminals may have made to win their freedom and not hard at all to imagine that the Assad regime still has some control over them. One al-Qaeda member who was captured by the Free Syrian Army spoke of this type of control:
“It happened once that a Syrian regime officer and 11 others defected and drove their vehicle through Masila [north of Raqqa]. We received orders to arrest them and hand them back over to the regime,”This is what he said about another jihadist leader in Raqqa:
“Abu Anas is financed directly by the regime, through Iran and Iraq. His brigade is specialized in kidnappings, car bombs and targeted assassinations of FSA members.”From another source we have another example of collusion between Assad and ISIS in the fight against the Free Syrian Army in the Aleppo area in January 2014:
Some areas liberated from ISIS, such as Manbej and Binnish have been subjected to fierce shelling by the Assad regime following rebel takeover, leading in the case of Binnish to ISIS being able to retake the town and increasing speculation of military coordination between ISIS and the regime.From Peter Clifford, still more examples of this collusion:
After ISIL removed all moderate Opposition forces from around the besieged Division 17 Government-held base near Raqqah city and allowed the regime to re-supply their troops there, the voices claiming the Jihadists are in league with Assad continue to grow.In January 2014, Michel Kilo, a member of the Syrian National Coalition delegation participating in the Geneva II talks, told Al-Monitor:
Liberated ISIL prisons have been found to contain many fighters from moderate brigades, but not one single Syrian Army soldier or a member of Assad’s security services.
Nor do ISIL headquarters and buildings, very obvious with their black flags and banners, seem to be the target of regime war planes.
“There are photos that have been found of several emirs of ISIS with [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad. The pictures were taken before they became emirs in ISIS, when they were all officers in the Syrian special service. There are documents sent by the special service to ISIS telling them to capture or kidnap people in Raqqa and Jarabalus, and these documents will be published. And you will see how the regime fabricated these extremist groups that did not exist in our country at the beginning of the revolution.On 5 December 2013 Bashar al-Assad even bragged to a group of lawyers from the Jordanian bar association that he had “allies and fighters working for him even within the ranks of opposition.”
appears to be a fake one. I mean, who brings their passport to a suicide bombing anyway?
So there you have it. It would seem that Bashar al-Assad had the motive, means and opportunity to be behind the Paris terror attacks. I'm not saying that Assad did it. I haven't seem anything like direct evidence of his complicity. I'm just saying that he should be a suspect and I have yet to hear him mentioned as one, so I thought I'd write this blog post.